Veteran Philippe Senderos stepping up when Houston Dynamo need him most

Philippe Senderos for Houston Dynamo, October 30 2017

HOUSTON – Center back Philippe Senderos wanted nothing more than to hit the ground running when he signed with the Houston Dynamo in August.

Having played his last competitive match back in February, it’s easy to see why Senderos was aching to get some playing time, but there were circumstances at play that prevented the former Arsenal defender from getting on the field. Chief among them was adapting to life in MLS.

“It’s difficult to say, just adapting to the way we play and to being out here,” said Senderos on the adjustment to MLS. “It is a change for me to be in the US and I had to adapt. I am still adapting and I still want to get better.”

Was there anything specific about MLS that he had to adjust to? Senderos responded, “football is football, everywhere it’s similar.”

The 32-year-old speaks from experience, having played in the English Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, and the Scottish Premier League, among other stops in his career. That experience has paid off for the Dynamo, who have had to call on the Swiss international in the wake of devastating injuries to Dynamo defenders A.J. DeLaGarza and Leonardo.

Senderos has answered the call and then some. He’s stepped into the Dynamo defense seamlessly while going the distance and helping Houston maintain their shutout streak, now up to 447 consecutive minutes, intact over the past two playoff games, including a gritty 120-minute victory over Sporting KC in the Knockout Round of the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Signing Senderos, Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera said, has been a positive for the team not just for the play, but for the pedigree he brings to the team.

“That was the idea, to bring in an experienced player to help us in the defense, to be a leader and to bring his experience and also to be sure that we have good communication right there [in defense],” Cabrera said.

“It has been very positive for us – very positive for himself and it has been very positive for the team.”

What’s been the cause of his positive play on the field after only playing twice in the regular season? Senderos said he needed games to get into rhythm, noting that playing a lot of games in a short amount of time helps in that aspect.

“It is difficult to say, I think the results say more than I can say about myself,” said Senderos on how he evaluates his play so far in the playoffs. “I am obviously very hard on myself, it is difficult to say – we have done well, results-wise and we haven’t conceded many goals and that’s a positive.”

Sunday’s upcoming Western Conference Semifinals second-leg match against Portland Timbers (7:30 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes; TSN, TVAS in Canada) is another notch in Senderos’ belt of big matches. He has played in three World Cups, a UEFA Champions League final, and lifted the FA Cup while entrenched in Arsenal’s backline.

That trove of experience in do-or-die matches will come in handy Sunday night.

“The most important game is always the next one,” Senderos said. “Yes, I bring experience to the game, to the team, but it will take everyone to be ready to fight and sacrifice for the team and try to get a result out there.”