HOUSTON – There’s a different feel around the Houston Dynamo these days. A team that a month ago was looking for answers has suddenly sprung to life.
On Friday, in their second shutout win in three weeks, the Dynamo were sharp in moving the ball around in the attack while shutting down the opposition's passing lanes and chances. The result was a convincing 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Union that has put Houston a little closer to squeezing into the playoffs.
While it has taken the August heat to find their form, the club finally look to be a dangerous threat to the rest of the Eastern Conference.
“We are not a team that should have 25 points,” said forward Will Bruin, who scored the winner against the Union. “We have all the right pieces at all the right positions, and it’s time to put it all together. It’s enough messing around, enough saying, ‘Oh next time, next time.’ I think we’ve realized it’s now or never, and we’re playing like every game’s a must-win.”
Bruin’s been at the precipice of Houston’s good run of form. He’s scored three goals in the last four games and notched his fifth game-winner of the season against the Union. His run and connection with his attacking teammates has been one the club’s signs of life, not just from a goals standpoint but from a possession standpoint, which has helped relieve pressure on the defense.
The Dynamo's strong possession game was on display against the Union, and so too were the impacts made by Houston's two newcomers. Left back DaMarcus Beasley and midfielder Luis Garrido again played key roles in the club’s shutout.
“I think there’s a new-found confidence there,” said captain Brad Davis. “We’ve been losing games, but we’re playing better than we were. I don’t think we were putting together some very good games. There were some games we didn’t deserve to win, but the past few weeks I think we’ve played some very good ball.”
The Dynamo reached the playoffs by a narrow margin in both 2012 (1 point) and 2013 (2 points) and have made strong late-season runs in each of the last three years. Based on that history, the Dynamo have always maintained a sense of confidence in their ability to turn their season around, but for the first time since the spring, it’s showing on the field.
With their latest win, Houston are three points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, although the amount of teams they have to battle with - there are four teams within three points of the last playoff spot – could make it a tougher climb than usual. Yet the latest showing has the Dynamo playing with a renewed confidence and looking to continue improving what were once slim playoff chances.
“Everybody but Montreal is above us. There’s really nothing for us to hold back,” Davis said. “There’s nothing to lose. We know where we sit, so we have to start climbing the table and win games. To do that, you have to have a bit of confidence and the belief we can win games, and I think we’ve done that.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.