HOUSTON – At the first of two training sessions before Thursday night’s return leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals series with the Philadelphia Union (8:30 pm ET; ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, TSN2; live chat on MLSsoccer.com), the Houston Dynamo’s approach was clear: Do not let up.
To keep their 2-1 advantage – thanks to an away win in the first leg on Sunday – the Dynamo know they cannot take the Union lightly. That means they must play their game rather than sit back to protect a lead.
“We have to come out and take the game to them like we did Sunday,” said Brian Ching. “We have to come out and impose our will and play like we did in the first half. If we do I like our chances.”
Houston need only to look at their 2008 playoff series with the New York Red Bulls for evidence to support their position. New York turned a 1-1 aggregate score after the first leg into a 4-1 win with a dominant 3-0 victory at Robertson Stadium.
Now in a similar situation, the Dynamo are expecting an aggressive Union team that resembles the one they saw in the second half last Sunday – Philadelphia fired off 18 shots in the second 45 – as opposed to the counterattacking group they saw in the first half.
“We have to take that second half as a warning,” Ching said. “They have talent and if we don’t take that into account, then we’re asking for trouble. We definitely have that on our minds and we’re looking to come out and attack a lot more than we did in the second half.”
For all the Union’s second-half firepower, though, the Dynamo still control their own fate. And sometimes that means balancing how how aggressive they are on the attack, according to veteran midfielder Brad Davis.
“I think a lot of [our play] will depend on how the game goes,” Davis said. “We don’t want to just sit back and defend a 2-1 lead. We’re going to try and score goals and try and win.
“With that said, it’s tough to know what we’re going to do until we’re in the position. If it’s late in the game where we have that one goal lead, we have to be mindful of how many guys we’re sending forward and playing disciplined. But going in we’re going to start the game like we always do and try and win it.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.