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Underrated Hainault getting praise where it counts

HOUSTON – Some players naturally gravitate towards the limelight. Houston Dynamo defender Andre Hainault isn’t one of them.

In his four years in Houston, Hainault has become one of the Orange’s best and most consistent defenders. While he’s dominated on the field, however, the same can’t be said of the attention paid him by the media. Last December, MLSsoccer.com voted the Canadian international the second-most underrated player in the league behind Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy.

And that’s just fine by Hainault.

“I take it as a positive,” Hainault told MLSsoccer.com of his underrated status. “I’m not a flashy guy and don’t draw a lot of attention. What matters to me is that the highest praise I can get is from my teammates and coaches and I got that last year.”

Indeed, Houston voted the 25-year-old defender their Defender of the Year in 2011. But more than just the results, Hainault has endeared himself to his teammates and coaches with his work ethic and professionalism.

“We call him ‘Droid’ because he’s a machine,” Tally Hall told MLSsoccer.com on Monday. “He doesn’t take emotional or physical breaks. He’s 100 percent intense on every play and never takes one off. He’s always focused and thinking about the play at hand and putting that intensity in. It’s a rare thing to have a guy like that.”

That focus put Hainault in position to come up big for the Dynamo in 2011. He played all four positions on the backline last season, maintaining a high level of play while making 31 starts in defense – the most of any Dynamo player.

But along with his trademark consistency, the 6-foot defender showed he can come through in pressure situations, even on the other end of the field.

When Houston – who went winless in their first 14 road games – needed wins away late last season, Hainault came through scoring in the last three matches away from home, including twice in the MLS Cup Playoffs at the Philadelphia Union and Sporting Kansas City.

The incumbent at right back, Hainault will be part of a Dynamo backline that has a chance to be one of the best in the league. While he may fly under the radar on the national scene, no one taking the field with him will be surprised by another top season.

“He’s a consistent player that’s underrated by the media but he’s rock solid for our back four,” defender Geoff Cameron said of Hainault. “He’s grown from his first year here to now and I think he’s a great attribute and asset to our team. We need more players like him.”

Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.