D.C. United just can’t seem to win in Houston. Ever.
Sunday evening’s last-minute, heartbreaking 1-0 loss to the Dynamo was actually relatively close when compared to D.C.’s other visits to Houston. United are 0-11-1 across all competitions when visiting the Dynamo and have been outscored 24-5 in the process.
United looked well positioned to break that mark on Sunday, fresh off a mid-week dismantling of a strong Toronto FC side for their fourth consecutive win. They faced a Houston side in a tailspin, winless in their last eight matches and rapidly fading from playoff contention.
Still, it was more of the same. Regular starters Chris Korb and Nick DeLeon were late scratches, United looked a bit leggy playing their third game in just more than a week, and Houston were gifted a stoppage time winner by Will Bruin after a bungled defensive play.
The Houston hex continued.
"You know, we knew it was a going to be tough,” United captain Bobby Boswell told MLSsoccer.com in a phone interview. "They’re a great team, and they’re hungry. We played mid-week, and some of these guys played Saturday in Florida [in a friendly against Fulham], so this is their third game in a week. I think that showed in the second half."
D.C. can take some small comfort in knowing that they’re not the only MLS side that struggles to win in Houston. The sometimes stifling heat and humidity and somewhat snug field dimensions at BBVA Compass Stadium have earned the venue a reputation as one of the hardest places to play in the league.
Boswell is uniquely qualified to speculate on United’s difficulties in the Lone Star State. He first visited Houston during his original stint with D.C. in 2005-07, then welcomed the black-and-red as a member of the Dynamo before returning to the District in 2014.
"I think it's a bit of everything here,” said Boswell, “[the weather, the field dimensions], it all goes into it a little bit. I think I was on some really good teams in D.C. back in '06 and '07 where we weren’t able to solve the riddle here and we went on to win Supporters’ Shields. I don’t know what it is – the matchup, the weather. Tonight, we had just a test that weren’t able to solve. We’ll learn from it, though.”
- Get the latest United news at DCUnited.com
Perhaps it’s something more cryptic?
Does United get psyched out at their lack of success in Houston? To Boswell, the idea that the club’s previous performances against the Dynamo would dictate their current ones is rubbish, a storyline talked more about in the media than the locker room.
"I think there are so may guys from other teams on this squad – nobody probably even realizes that [we haven’t won at Houston],” said Boswell. “I think that’s something you guys [in the media] talk about. I remember when I played on Houston we won a game somewhere in Canada and someone told me that it was the first game we’d ever won up there, and none of us had even realized that.
"It’s not like we look into any of that – we just go out there and try and perform on the day. We don’t buy that we’re not going to win because of history."
D.C. will take another crack at changing their luck at BBVA in October. Perhaps the cooler fall temperatures and heat of the playoff chase will make for a more favorable result. Otherwise, their bad luck in Houston will continue.
"We come back here later in the year,” said Boswell just before departing BBVA. “Maybe we can learn and figure out what we can do better. We were one play away from getting a shutout and one play away from getting a goal.
"We just need to figure that out and get a win."