HOUSTON – It has been an up-and-down year for the Houston Dynamo defense, and those inconsistent performances haven't been helped by different lineup combinations.
Now the Dynamo are looking to capitalize on an opportunity of facing two teams directly ahead of them in the Eastern Conference. But to do that, they'll have to build on last Sunday’s success against a quality, though shorthanded, Monterrey side as they look to regain their defensive prowess.
“I think the defense has been good,” head coach Dominic Kinnear said. “It was good to have a game against Monterrey where we know there wasn’t a threat in the second half, we were good from an organizational sense and we come away with a shutout.”
Houston looked to be on an upswing in early July, securing shutouts against the Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC. Since that double play, the club has played eight league games without locking down their own net.
The low point came in a 3-0 loss at Chivas USA on July 23. The result prompted a lineup change that saw Jermaine Taylor and Kofi Sarkodie exit with Bobby Boswell and Hunter Freeman — starters earlier in the season — reinserted. Since the change the Dynamo have conceded just a single goal in five of their last six league contests (the only exception was a 3-2 win over Real Salt Lake.)
“We haven’t had shutouts, but we haven’t had games where we’re leaking goals,” Freeman said. “We’re giving up one goal here or there, but we know that if we don’t give up goals we have a good chance.
“When we have given up goals it has been self-inflicted stuff. You don’t look back at it and say, ‘Man, they just broke us down.’ Its stuff we can eliminate on our own. We’ve said it a few times that we have to eliminate the mistakes.”
Though the bend-but-don’t-break version of the defense has kept the Dynamo in games, the team understands the need to put goose eggs on the board. To do that, they are going to have to limit their mistakes if they want to develop a stingy mentality.
“You can’t get a shut out every time out but that’s always the intention,” Kinnear said. “We’d love to be at the point where every time you step out there you know you can get a shutout, and I believe we have that ability.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.