HOUSTON – They were pegged to be one of the top units in Major League Soccer coming into the 2012 season. But the Houston Dynamo defense has simply been a shambles in recent days.
The Dynamo endured their worst two-game defensive stretch in franchise history last week, conceding seven goals in matches against Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact. It's a collapse in form that has the team scrambling for answers.
“This is new territory for the guys that are back there right now,” defender Bobby Boswell told MLSsoccer.com after Tuesday’s training session. “We’ve been pretty stingy and I think we’ve gotten a little loose lately. There’s no excuse for it. To give up seven goals in two games is definitely not a good thing.”
The two-week total brings their June mark to 11 in four matches after conceding just 12 in their first 11 games.
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The numbers show what the Dynamo already know – that something is not clicking on the backline. A year after playing lockdown defense to book their passage to the MLS Cup final and conceding just more than a goal a game through their first 12 this season, Houston have now conceded 23 goals – including 18 on the road – which is tied for fifth most in MLS.
While there is certainly not one sole reason for the uncharacteristic play, a common theme attributed to the defensive troubles is communication. Not just within the back four, but through the whole squad.
“It's team defending,” said head coach Dominic Kinnear. “When you don’t put pressure on the ball, there are good enough players in this league that can put together the right passes. If we talk early, and are decisive with our communication we can cut down on running. It’s a little out of character for us but it’s a reality.”
The Dynamo boss pointed to shutting down runners and winning second balls – something he has noted after both matches – along with increasing pressure as areas of focus for Houston to right the ship.
Whatever the answer may be, the Dynamo are confident they can rebound and return to the type of dominating defense they expect to be playing.
“It’s not a question of if we can succeed, we know we can and we have the history that shows it,” goalkeeper Tally Hall said. “It’s about coming together, being on the same page and covering for each other better. When we start doing that we’ll start cutting down the holes.
“To have a week like that, or two weeks going back to the Vancouver game, where the defense is extremely porous it’s extremely frustrating,” Hall continued. “But it’s a unit that we know can succeed and can be one of the best in MLS.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.