HOUSTON – On Tuesday afternoon, the Houston Dynamo once again lined up and blasted shot after shot on goal during finishing drills.
Now if only those drills could translate into goals on the field of play.
Houston’s attack has hit a lull. After starting fast out of the gates, the Dynamo offense has plateaued, with just two goals in the last six games.
“We’re just not scoring right now,” said Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear. “Rarely does a team go through a season without a stretch like this. You look around the locker room and see you have a lot of quality players in there. You try and remember why you were successful and keep working hard and keep your chin up.”
The chances continue to be there, but the pressure falls on the guys responsible for putting the ball on frame. Forwards Will Bruin and Giles Barnes formed an unlikely pairing up top that found success early in the 2013 season. In fact, through 10 games the pair amassed eight goals and looked to be a prime mix of creativity and brawn, which was on display in the Dynamo’s last win over D.C. United May 8.
Since that game, however, the pair has seen nothing but frustration, but it’s not because they’re not getting looks.
Barnes and Bruin have both had opportunities – with 41 and 45 chances respectively – and they have tested goalkeepers, combining for 23 shots on goal this season. Here’s the crux of the issue: In the last six games, Barnes has taken 12 shots with one on goal to Bruin’s 22 with just six on target.
Bruin’s seen this happen before. He’s battled scoring droughts in each of his first two seasons and come out the other side better for it.
“He’s done well getting out of adversity in the past and I think he’ll work his way out of this one as well,” veteran Dynamo goalscorer Brian Ching said of Bruin. “It’s there for him. I think what you try and do with him is stay positive and tell him not to get too hard on yourself because you just make things harder.”
The third-year striker has drawn much of the scrutiny for the failures in front of goal. After setting the club’s scoring record in 2012 with 16 overall goals, Bruin was expected to build on his breakout year, but it hasn’t turned out that way as his finishing has once again gone ice-cold.
“He’s a top player and you don’t become a bad player overnight,” winger Andrew Driver said. “I have spoken to him and told him it’s going to take a deflection or something hitting you in the face and going in and you’re going to get one and start going from there. He doesn’t have to worry.”
Chasing that goal could lead to a shift in lineup or tactics. Last season Houston looked to jump-start the attack by rotating between a 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 with Bruin finding his most success with partners Ching and Calen Carr. This recent lull begs the question whether the Dynamo should shuffle things up with forwards Omar Cummings, Cam Weaver, Jason Johnson and Ching in the mix.
“As far as shaking the lineup up, it’s not something I discuss publicly,” Kinnear said. “There are still a lot of good players in the locker room and I don’t look in right now and say, ‘Guys are playing themselves out of the team.’ It’s a team that’s playing well and not getting results.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.