There’s testing depth and then there’s what the Houston Dynamo experienced Saturday night.
Down four starters at the beginning of the game due to suspension, international call-ups and injury, Houston was forced to look further down their depth chart with three in-game injuries – two before the 40 minute mark – that pushed players into action that haven’t seen much of it all season.
Houston’s young players answered the call, though, seeing out a 1-1 draw that was only a Federico Higuaín penalty kick away from the full three points.
OPTA Chalkboard: Dynamo frustrate Crew despite intense pressure
“When young guys or new guys come on the field it could’ve been a really bad game or a good game,” goalkeeper Tally Hall told MLSsoccer.com. “I think the team mentality that guys come in and just come into this core circle where everyone’s on the same page and everyone’s giving what they’ve got for the team and that’s what happened.”
With the Crew applying most of the attacking pressure in the game, the Dynamo’s defense was front and center on the night. After Eric Brunner left the game in the 20th minute, Houston relied on rookie Anthony Arena – making his debut – and Ricardo Clark in the center of defense to repel Columbus’ attack.
Despite the tough test against an aggressive Crew squad, Houston was in bend-but-don’t-break mode as they repelled the Crew a number of times, never conceding in the run of play, even if they had to count on Hall at times to keep them in it.
“Towards the end, we had to dig deep to hold them [The Crew] off on their last push,” Dynamo midfielder Warren Creavalle told reporters after the game. “We were fortunate enough to go up in the first half and just unlucky enough to not hold on to our lead.”
The work the Dynamo put in was a highlight of their depth, which was evident in the contributions from several players, including rookies Arena and Jason Johnson (above, left).
“Anthony as a center back to come in and just adjust to the game as fast as he did in his first MLS minutes ever I thought he was very good,” Hall said. “J.J. [Johnson] I thought was a handful all night in his first start. It’s exciting.”
After dipping into their depth and coming out with a hard-earned result, the Dynamo leave Columbus with confirmation of the belief in their roster top to bottom.
“I’m not calling other teams out, but I think there are a lot of teams that would have two losses from those games,” Hall said about the last two games. “I think this team stepped up with guys being called on that weren’t used to it. If this is the quality we have its exciting because we’re in a good spot.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.