HOUSTON – A game every three days. That's what the Houston Dynamo have logged to get to this point, lining up six times in 17 days on their way to the Eastern Conference Championship. During that time, they have played four games with direct elimination consequences, and two more were the first legs of home-and-home playoff series.
As the Dynamo walked off the field on Saturday afternoon at BBVA Compass Stadium, they understandably looked drained. After a month-and-a-half’s worth of work crammed into a little more than two weeks, a scoreless draw in the opening leg against Sporting Kansas City was a result the club was more than willing to take considering the circumstances.
“Six games in less than three weeks is something incredible,” said head coach Dominic Kinnear. “We knew it was going to come down to the second game in Kansas City anyways because of how close and competitive these teams are, but these guys deserve a break. Not only physically, but mentally as well, to get away and kind of recharge the batteries.”
On Saturday, Houston showed some of the wear and tear brought on by the congested schedule. Players found the chewed-up field difficult to deal with, and were more likely to throw themselves into strong challenges against a Sporting Kansas City team playing their fifth game in the same time period.
And yet the Dynamo handled the challenge, losing just once in six games -- against Árabe Unido in CONCACAF Champions League play -- as they endured physical and mental strain.
“These guys, I’m always going to go back to six in 18," Kinnear said. "It’s a game every three days, and for these guys to come out of it with one loss, for me, is pretty incredible."
While Houston championed their ability to overcome, it didn't keep them from wondering whether this game and the second leg could have been played at a different times.
“The way the schedule laid, it’s still a little confusing as to why we didn’t play next Tuesday or Wednesday,” said Brad Davis. “We’re going there 0-0. With the way the guys are feeling right now, I’m not going to say we’re ecstatic with it, but we’re going to Kansas City knowing exactly what we have to do. It’s going to be who’s going to show up on the day. That’s all it is.”
Now the Dynamo will take a two-week break as MLS pauses for the FIFA international window. Houston will use that time to recuperate and nurse players back to health, namely Ricardo Clark and Will Bruin, ahead of a second leg November 23.
“We’ve played a lot of games, a lot, a lot of matches,” Kofi Sarkodie said. “Realistically, it’s weird the schedule that we have off two weeks, but I think it might be to our benefit. We can get some guys that have nagging injuries, get some rest and get rebooted for our match.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.