FM15: Houston Dynamo season gets underway

Last month we began a new series, tracking Houston Dynamo in an alternate reality with me in charge of the team playing the latest installment of the hugely popular Football Manager series (FM 15). The first part of the story, which laid the ground work for my career, can be found here. We have been on pause since that first installment and waiting for the first full patch of the game to address several issues in MLS within the game.

Chief among those issues was the difficulty the AI has in managing MLS rosters under the cap; something that is vastly different from any other league in the game. With version 15.2 being released last week, however, and addressing some of the MLS issues, we are back underway.

My first task in preseason is to add a coach to work with the team and to build my scouting system, which at this point consists of Nick Kowba alone. I also suggest to Chris Canetti that hiring a Technical Director to take certain burdens off of my plate would not be a bad idea.

A quick search of available coaches turns up Brian Ching as willing to go into coaching. Bringing the Dynamo legend back to the team is a no brainer, so he is signed; a move that, of course, proves to be very popular with the fans.

Credit: Football Manager 15

Along with Ching, we hire three scouts to bring our total scouting resource up to 4. We promptly dispatch three of the scouts to Korea, Peru and Central America to look for talent. We don’t currently have any international slots available, but trades could change that and, at a minimum, we need to identify options for next season. Our 4th scout is deployed to assess talent within MLS.

The preseason passes without incident; we win a few, we lose a few. Trade offers come in for Tally Hall, Brad Davis and Ricardo Clark, none of which are interesting. A transfer offer comes from Verona in Italy for Boniek Garcia, but we are not ready to sell unless the offer is staggering. We try to trade for Ike Opara to address our backline shortcomings, but the price proves to be too steep. When the contract guarantee date comes, one player who is waived by his team is Brandon Barklage. We need depth at fullback so invite him in for a trial. We like what we see and sign him up as a backup.

Credit: Football Manager 15

As outlined previously, my preferred formation within the game is a 4-2-3-1 with the wingers split out wide. Will Bruin will be the lone striker – he is perhaps not ideal for the position but I am banking on being able to create enough chances through the creativity of Davis, Garcia and Giles Barnes that he will be able to score a few. To enhance the creative abilities of all three players, Garcia and Davis have been given instructions to play as raumdeuters while Barnes will act as a trequartista. Barnes and Garcia are definitely up for the roles; as for Davis, we’ll see.

The first matchday of the season roles around; New England Revolution are the opponent and a challenging one at that. We will immediately get a good sense of where we stand.  31 minutes in, where we stand is not so good. Federico Puppo carves up our backline with a wonderful pass to put Scott Caldwell in on goal, the midfielder proceeds to beat Hall with a cracker of a shot.  Five minutes later, though, Clark beats a defender and plays a nifty pass to Bruin who opens his account for the season (fair warning on video below, for some reason FM 15 highlights upload to Youtube as very blurry, the actual game does not look like this).

We threaten for the remainder of the match, getting off 14 shots including 7 on goal. However, neither team can break the deadlock and we open the season with a slightly disappointing 1-1 draw. DaMarcus Beasley and Jermaine Taylor both have big games in keeping the New England offense in check. Brad Davis, on the other hand, struggles.

A quick look at the analytical tools at my disposal provides some sense of how my tactics are working in terms of producing shots in high probability areas as well as what Davis did. The shot chart below shows what I would hope for – a lot of shots from within the box, a minimum number of long range shots. The green is the Bruin goal, red are missed shots, yellow are saves and blue are blocked on the way to the net. Bruin took the most shots and had quality chances to win the match but could not convert. The heat map shows Davis’ movements and average position. It generally reflects what I want, so we’ll just have to watch his performances in the future.

Credit: Football Manager 15

Things go better in our second match, a 2-1 win over Montreal. Bruin opens the scoring in the 16th minute while Garcia adds one just before halftime. Marco Di Vaio pulls one back for Montreal in the 73rd minute, but we hang on for the win. Barnes and Davis pick up the assists and Davis is overall much more influential in this game. The ball Davis provides on the Bruin goal is lovely and the Bear, for his part, times his run perfectly. 21 shots (only 7 on goal, though) speak to our ability to create chances in our attack minded set-up.

The good times keep rolling with an away win against Vancouver.  Barnes puts the Dynamo in front in the 19th minute only to see Vancouver equalize in the 32nd through Nicolas Mezquida. A Taylor goal off of a corner kick sends the Dynamo into the half up 2-1. Bruin keeps his early season run going two minutes after the re-start and a complete defensive catastrophe in the 51st sees Andrew Driver put the Dynamo on top 4-1 which is how it ends. 25 shots, 10 on goal and I am a happy camper. Barnes picks up another assist as does Garcia and Beasley.

With that, we have won two of our first three games and are undefeated. Next time: the Texas Derby.

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