Houston flip the script on set pieces, catch United napping

HOUSTON – Set pieces are a topic of discussion for any team that faces the Houston Dynamo. Sunday afternoon they got a new wrinkle to worry about going forward.

Instead of sticking to the script of allowing Brad Davis to pump a ball in the box on set pieces, Houston went with another option. Davis and midfield running mate Boniek Garcia settled on a pattern of quick free kicks, hoping to catch a young D.C. United side napping.

It worked. Andre Hainault’s 51st-minute equalizer was a direct result of a quick free kick – both Garcia and Davis earned assists on the play – and that spurred to an eventual 3-1 win.

“We saw the New York game in New York that [Theirry] Henry caught them on a quick free kick,” said defender Corey Ashe. “I think we always look for that and if it’s on, it’s on and if it’s not, it’s not. But it’s something we definitely look at.”

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The film study paid off on Hainault’s goal, and was almost good for an opener nearly 30 minutes earlier. Garcia found the Canadian on a running header in the box in the 23rd minute, but Hainault pushed the wide-open look just wide.

“Give them some credit, they played quick free kicks,” D.C. head coach Ben Olsen said. “They’ve been doing that for 10 years and they’ve been successful at it. Brad Davis is a classy player and he knows how to do that when it’s on. That’s our fault. We were prepared for it. We knew about it. We turned off.”

While D.C. turned off the Dynamo were tuned in and showed yet another way they can exploit one of the most well-known advantages in MLS.

“It’s something we’ve tried to do all year,” said Hainault after the match. “I don’t want to give away our secret but I think it’s out. Teams know it. I know Pat Onstad knows it because I was watching Theirry Henry play and he was shouting because he knows those work. We look for it and we were on the same page on that second one.”

Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.