HOUSTON — Coming into the conference playoff series, the book on the Houston Dynamo read pretty clearly: Limit set pieces.
After Houston pulled off a 3-1 aggregate win over the Philadelphia Union, including victories in both legs, it is clear that is easier to read the book than to understand it.
Two of the Dynamo’s three goals came off set pieces, both struck by Brad Davis. In addition to the goals the Dynamo were dominant, winning a large portion of the aerial battles in and around Philadelphia’s area.
WATCH HIGHLIGHTS: HOU 1, PHI 0
Playing into the Dynamo’s hands was the physical nature of the series, which featured 46 fouls — 26 of which were whistled on the Union. Add in nine Dynamo corner kicks, and Houston had all the ammunition they needed to exploit their most dangerous weapon.
In first-half stoppage time of the second leg on Thursday night, the Dynamo took advantage when Davis’ curling free kick found the charging Brian Ching, who headed home the winner.
“It all comes down to delivery,” said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear. “If you don’t have a guy who can deliver the ball you’ll get nowhere. The delivery from Brad was excellent and Brian got a good run into the box and there were other times where we looked pretty dangerous too.
Davis’ service is, of course, made to look even better when being delivered to the side’s corps of tall players, including Bobby Boswell (6-foot-2), Geoff Cameron (6-3), Andre Hainault (6 feet), and Ching.
“[The media] have talked about it and other teams keep saying it, but I keep saying we’re going to get our chances every game and we look to capitalize on them,” said Davis who has nine of his 18 overall assists on set pieces. “Tonight we did it again.”
In Sunday’’s looming showdown with Sporting Kansas City in the Eastern Conference Championship, the Dynamo will once again be on the prowl — Houston’s only goal this year against Sporting KC came from Davis on a set piece in their 1-1 draw.
“I think we’ve been successful all year on them and in the past we’ve been the same way,” said Boswell, who has scored four of his five goals off set pieces this year. “It’s our bread and butter. It’s hard to mark everyone. It’s been working for us. Why change it if it’s working?”