Defensive familiarity breeds confidence in Houston

Tally Hall, Bobby Boswell, Andre Hainault

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HOUSTON – Teams often feel the need to tinker in the offseason. They look for the final piece or pieces to the puzzle that will push them over the top.

The Houston Dynamo weren’t one of those teams this winter. That fact is reinforced by the return of several familiar faces to the Dynamo’s defense for the 2012 season.

With Corey Ashe, Bobby Boswell, Geoff Cameron, Andre Hainault and key pinch-hitter Jermaine Taylor manning the back line, Houston found a mix of speed, strength and athleticism at the end of last year that made them one of the toughest teams in MLS to break down. After adding only Nathan Sturgis to the mix this year, the same faces will likely be anchoring the Dynamo's back four when the club kicks off 2012 on Mar. 11 at Chivas USA.

That suits Houston just fine.

“That’s where it was tough two years ago, when there were some changes and we had to adjust to it,” said Andre Hainault, who is nursing a minor groin injury that has kept him out of the past two exhibition games. “We ended on a good note last year and we’ve kept a lot of the guys and just added a little. I think this can help us in the long run this season.”

Including the playoffs, the Dynamo gave up just five goals in the final nine games of 2011. After struggling to keep teams off the scoreboard throughout the season, improving defensively was vital to the club’s turnaround and push to the MLS Cup final.

Familiarity breeds success. That is the mantra several players echoed after the 9-0 win over the Dynamo Academy on Monday. And familiarity with each other and knowing how to be successful for the group revolves around working hard and playing for the man next to him.

“As a ‘keeper, it’s exciting because every guy has their strengths and they all seem to complement each other well,” Tally Hall told MLSsoccer.com. “Everyone is on the same page. They know what they’re good at and it’s a matter of putting each other in a position to succeed. It’s easy to be successful when you have three or four guys doing that.”

With the same group returning in 2012, Houston is banking on the experience they gained last season to put in stingy defensive displays throughout the upcoming campaign.

“We’re so close and tight that we know each other so well and we know the strength and weaknesses of each other,”  Cameron told MLSsoccer.com. “Being with one another, knowing one another and playing on a regular basis helps us and benefits the team.

“We got together at the end of last year and solidified the defense and [had] this idea of being the ‘Alcatraz’ and letting no goals in our net. I think we still have that for preseason, and we are ready for this season.”

Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.