While the Houston Dynamo may still be getting used to all the facets of a new formation, one aspect they have picked up on is how to use the 4-3-3 to their advantage defensively.
Against a multi-faceted Sporting Kansas City attack on Saturday, the Dynamo showed just what it can do to limit an opponent’s chances. SKC created 17 shots, but only four were on goal, and Jacob Petersen’s first-half shot off the post was the only one to come close to breaking through in the teams’ scoreless draw.
While the attack may still be finding its legs in the new system – the Dynamo mustered just two shots on goal - the performance showed that the club’s defense is already on the right page.
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“I thought the whole back four defended pretty well,” head coach Dominic Kinnear told MLSsoccer.com by phone. "It’s a work in progress. Defensively we’re looking good, and on the attacking side there’re some things we need to work on, which is fine.”
With three players in the center of the pitch, Houston are starting to clog the lanes heading into their defensive third and making clear cut chances hard to come by, evidenced by Kansas City’s lack of shots on target.
It’s a plan teams have employed against Houston often, and the Dynamo are happy to start returning the favor.
“It’s a system where guys clog the middle and make it tough for teams to play through,” defender Bobby Boswell told MLSsoccer.com. “When the guys in front of us are working their tails off it makes our job a lot easier. We’re just picking up pieces and balls that get through, but tonight, and the last couple of games, it’s been the guys in front of us doing all the hard work and we’re there to clean it up if it gets through.”
Saturday’s shutout draw was Houston’s second in a row, and brings their goals-against total in three games in the system to just one.
“I’m not sure it’s the most attractive thing to watch for fans but I’ll keep taking zeroes all year,” Boswell said. “Our goals are going to come. If we keep getting shutouts and continue keeping teams off the board I think we’re going to win a lot of games.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.