Houston Dynamo go back to set piece strength to grab key win over Sporting KC

It hasn’t been a consistent weapon all season but when they needed it Friday night, the Houston Dynamo down reached for a reliable weapon, the set piece.

Whether it’s been a lack of chances or drawing fewer fouls in dangerous areas, a lack of finishing or missing Brad Davis’ delivery, set pieces haven’t been the dangerous play they once were for Houston. However, after scoring just four in 25 games, the Dynamo reeled off back-to-back goals off dead balls in the second half to claim a crucial 3-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City at Sporting Park.

“You’re confident the ball’s going to be put in a dangerous place but it’s just a matter of the guys working free and attacking the ball,” head coach Dominic Kinnear said. “In a game like this there’s not a whole lot given, especially in the penalty areas. Guys worked themselves free and Brad put the ball in some good spots and it was the difference in the game for us tonight.”

After Will Bruin, who left the game minutes later with what Kinnear called a twisted foot, put Houston up 1-0 with his 10th goal of the year in the 35th minute, Dom Dwyer clanged one off Luis Garrido’s foot and past goalkeeper Tally Hall.

Houston responded with a weapon that’s been forgotten this season, and by two players who aren’t known for scoring goals. First, David Horst scored the winner with a thumping header in the 62nd minute. Due to suspect marking by KC’s Lawrence Olum, the center back was all alone in the six yard box to tally just his second career goal and the club’s second road win of the season.

“I was open pretty much the whole game and Brad played in a great ball and I was able to get my head on it,” Horst told MLSsoccer.com via phone after the game. “I was surprised the way they were marking me that game. Hopefully with the goals tonight we can get the monkey off our backs and keep getting set piece goals to finish the season.”

If there was any thought of a comeback Houston killed that off, going to the well again five minutes later when Ricardo Clark used the back of his head to score an insurance goal off a Davis free kick.

Two set pieces, two great deliveries by Davis and a win for the Dynamo.

It’s an trusty formula and one that came in handy Friday.

Despite the result, the game could ultimately prove costly for the club. In addition to losing Bruin in the first half, the Dynamo lost Hall to what Kinnear said was a twisted knee in the 80th minute and reserve goalkeeper Tyler Deric finished out the win.

Those were the blemishes in an ugly game that included 36 fouls and an hour-plus weather delay due to lightning in the Kansas City area, but still it was a profitable night for the visitors.

“We know we always match up well with Sporting. It was a good physical match, a man’s game, I think this was something this group really needed,” Davis told the media. “We needed to be able to step up, fight and go on the road and get some confidence.”

Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.