Houston feeling their wing play as 4-3-3 pays dividends

HOUSTON – To have success in a lone-forward system, strong play from the wing is a must. On Sunday night, the Houston Dynamo hit the nail on the head.

Mac Kandji and Boniek García, who opened his MLS account in the 62nd minute, exploited the space behind the D.C. United back line consistently. When paired with the overlapping runs of fullbacks Corey Ashe and Andre Hainault, it was a night in which the Dynamo wings stood out. The result: a 4-0 victory over an overwhelmed 10-man United.

OPTA Chalkboard: Dynamo maintain high line for nearly entire 90 minutes

HIGHLIGHTS: Houston 4, D.C. United 0

“This formation, we’re trying to get space on the wing,” Kandji (above, left) said. “Today is the best that we’ve shown that and hopefully we keep on doing it.”

Houston made it a point to attack the flanks based on something they saw out of the D.C. defense. Knowing the United backline would try and play them tightly, they knew they could create space behind Robbie Russell – who left the match in the 40th minute after aggravating a plantar fasciitis injury in his left leg – and Daniel Woolard.  

Nowhere was that more evident than on the play that gave Houston a man advantage.

Ashe, who head coach Dominic Kinnear praised postmatch for his passing and aggressive play, played a sublime ball over the top to Kandji in the 17th minute. The pacy winger beat Russell into space and drew a red card from Bill Hamid for the D.C. goalkeeper’s clumsy slide-tackle in the box.

“We talked about it before the game, as soon as he plays it, we could play a give-and-go and they’d have to deal with his speed,” Ashe said of Kandji. “Danny [Cruz] and [Chris] Pontius had to tuck in and, when the ball was on the right, Andre would have time and space, and when it was on the left, I’d have time and space. It was just isolating and keeping them moving. Even if we didn’t have the ball, they had to respect and it kind of wore them down.” 

FULL LINEUPS AND BOX SCORE

In the end, all four goals were the result of wing play, with Luiz Camargo and Hainault notching assists from the flanks and Calen Carr and Kandji drawing penalty kicks out wide in the box. If Houston’s 4-3-3 is to continue firing on this level, their ability to execute Sunday’s game plan will be key.

“We finished our chances and we’re starting to click in this formation and that’s a good thing,” said striker Will Bruin, who became the first Dynamo player with double-digit goals in 2012 with his 37th-minute finish off a perfect Camargo cross from the wing. “After not scoring in the last two games, it felt good to put four on the board – whether it’s against 10 men or not.”

Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.