Going into a hostile environment without one of your best defenders could prove costly for most clubs. But in the process of clinching a spot in the Eastern Conference Championship on Wednesday night, the Houston Dynamo showed off their depth.
Without starting centerback Jermaine Taylor, out due to a left knee injury, manager Dominic Kinnear turned to Andre Hainault to fill the void and the Canadian international came through in the face of immense pressure from No. 1 seed Sporting Kansas City.
WATCH: Houston relieved to move on
“As we said, if Jermaine wasn’t ready to play, we knew Andre could step in and play well and that’s what he did tonight,” Kinnear told MLSsoccer.com by phone.
In his first start since Sept. 23, Hainault was in the middle of a defense that was quite simply under siege for 90 minutes. Sporting threw everything forward to save their season, but when Hainault was in the thick of things he rose to the occasion, ruling the air and clearing balls on the ground.
“He attacked the ball great, he reads the play well and he was good in the air," Kinnear said. "And he is not afraid to throw his body in front of things."
Hall proves captain right
In the lead-up to Wednesday’s match, Houston captain Brad Davis said there was not another goalkeeper in the league he would take over the Dynamo's Tally Hall.
And with the season on the line, Hall made his captain look good by putting in a rock-solid performance in the decisive second leg against an SKC squad that threatened with 31 open-play crosses, a number of set pieces and 20 total shots.
WATCH: SKC vs. HOU highlights
“He was big for us in this series,” Kinnear remarked. “For him to go 180 minutes and give up one goal against this team, I think he had a big part in that by cutting out crosses and not giving up rebounds and being in the right place.”
Concern over Carr
Joining Taylor on Houston’s list of the walking wounded Wednesday was Calen Carr. The slashing forward left in the 33rd minute with a strained hamstring and is on the clock to be ready for Sunday’s Eastern Conference Championship opener at BBVA Compass Stadium.
“Yeah he has a strained hamstring,” Kinnear told MLSsoccer.com. “Hopefully with the D.C.-New York game being played another day and getting this game moved back to Sunday is a benefit for us because we’re pretty banged up and that extra day is going to help us recover for Sunday.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.