Early stunner and a game of catch-up leaves Houston Dynamo's playoff hopes on thin ice

HOUSTON – Eight seconds. That is how long it took the New York Red Bulls to turn Sunday’s marquee match with the Houston Dynamo against the home team. In hindsight, it was an omen for a game that never was in the Dynamo’s control.

Houston were stunned by a laced Tim Cahill shot that took only three touches to create, and proved to be the first of three New York goals in a 3-0 win by the visitors. It was not what killed Houston’s chances – that was a collection of things laced throughout the 90 minutes.

But it was a goal Houston failed to overcome.

“I think the early goal killed us,” said center back Bobby Boswell. “I’ve said it time and time again, if you give up the first goal you hurt yourself and if you score the first goal you help yourself. The goal that quickly to start the game changes the dynamic of the game.”

With the early goal, the Dynamo practically invited New York to play the rope-a-dope. The Red Bulls sat back comfortably and allowed Houston to apply pressure with the confidence they could absorb it and counter-attack.

To Houston’s credit they did just that, pushing for the equalizer immediately after Cahill’s stunner, which was the quickest in MLS history.

Houston had chances – 20 in fact – to draw level. Those chances fell by the wayside from an attack that put in a lot of work but either by a failed touch, good defensive play or a few inches in either direction, found no joy in their attacking end.

“I don’t think the first goal killed us for the rest of the game; obviously it was the game winner,” head coach Dominic Kinnear said. “We had our moments, we had our chances to score some goals. It’s just a point of getting too desperate and you need to keep the same mindset.”

While Cahill’s goal was not the death knell, a letdown on a set piece in the 65th minute was. Thierry Henry floated a corner kick into the box that goalkeeper Tally Hall got a punch too. That deflection went directly to Dax McCarty, and two touches later Ibrahim Sekagya did Houston in.

It’s a question of confidence and according to Boswell, and an answer will come by learning from Sunday’s mistakes heading into a week where they need results – their own and some help elsewhere in the table – to keep their playoff hopes alive.

“Any time you get beat this badly you’ve got to look at it as what we did wrong,” Boswell said. “The good teams and good players they learn from their mistakes and don’t let them happen again. Hopefully we’re good players.”

Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.