A solid defense will take a team a long way in MLS, and the latest effort from the Houston Dynamo back line was the type of performance that might turn a few heads.
In a tight scoreless draw at Real Salt Lake this past Saturday, the Dynamo reassured everyone, including themselves, that they have the ability to lock down a championship-caliber attack.
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Yes, RSL played without injured talisman Javier Morales and went with veteran Arturo Alvarez up top instead of Fabián Espíndola. But they still managed 13 scoring chances at Rio Tinto Stadium and controlled 55 percent of the possession — yet Houston held the Claret-and-Cobalt attack to just one shot on goal.
“[The performance] was nice for Tally [Hall, Houston goalkeeper] and the defense back there,” defender Andre Hainault said. “They had some chances but I thought the team defended well from the front line, and that’s a good sign.”
Hainault led Saturday’s effort with an excellent performance. The Canadian international — who’s likely to be called into his country’s squad for the upcoming Gold Cup — broke up several dangerous RSL build-ups and made three saving tackles in the Dynamo’s penalty box.
Hainault, however, was just one part of a solid group effort that included Corey Ashe, Bobby Boswell and Hunter Freeman all stepping up to break up plays and stuff RSL’s attempts to create clear scoring chances.
“When you’ve got Corey on the left who can take the ball out of the back, and I think he played some good balls there, and Bobby and I communicate pretty well, so it was pretty good,” Hainault said. “I didn’t really think of our [strong] play until after the game because I was so focused on us trying to get that win, but it’s nice and it’s a good sign.”
Tale of two halves
While the defensive effort was there the entire match, it took a while for the Dynamo offense to gain control of the match. The club surrendered 62 percent of the possession in the first half and struggled to create chances as a result.
The game picked up from both teams in the second half, but it was Houston who sustained that momentum and dominated the final 25-plus minutes of the match.
“We didn’t just sit back and soak it up and let Tally (Hall) pull off wonderful saves,” head coach Dominic Kinnear said. “We played some good stuff going forward.”
Bruin quick on the draw
It’s normal for a rookie to defer to veteran teammates when they first enter the league. But that’s not the case for Dynamo forward Will Bruin. The rookie once again led the Dynamo in shots on goal (two) and shots (three) on Saturday, and he is currently ranked fourth in the league in shots (27).
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.