HOUSTON – Getting a handle on the Houston Dynamo this season has been a chore.
One week they’re scoring four goals and the next two weeks they’re getting shut out. Their defense was one of the best in the league through the first seven games and now has gone 10 games without a clean sheet.
That process has Houston with 20 points from 17 games, six out of the playoff race at the halfway point of the season.
With all the talk of new systems and implementing players, the club was adamant in the offseason that they were not rebuilding, but entering a new era with the same expectations. At this point they’re falling behind those goals, and the key to rectifying that is consistency.
“What we have to do is show that consistency level week-in-and-week-out,” head coach Owen Coyle said. “We showed it in the period prior to the two games; I think we took 10 points out of five games. I certainly know it’s there within us.
“When all’s said and done, we know if we bring that consistency we’re capable of going on that run and getting where we want to be. Nothing’s changed in terms of the mission when we started the season.”
Houston have struggled to produce chances lately, and back-to-back shutouts on the road have blemished their recent record. In both games, leading scorer Will Bruin was left without many opportunities to convert.
“I think there’s merit in that,” Coyle said when asked about the lack of production the past two games. “When you look at the previous games, when we created no end of chances, we scored four against Red Bulls, so we’ve shown we’re capable. I think there’s merit in that that we could’ve passed and moved it better than we have in the past two games.”
The team's work on the other side of the ball is not without questions, too. Houston started the season defensively sound, giving up four goals in their first seven games, but have conceded 19 in the 10 games since.
But despite the changes, Houston's play has continued to be inconsistent.
“I think we need to possess the ball better, make some tackles and let other people know they’re in a game,” Giles Barnes said. “Some people on other teams don’t have a problem leaving tackles on our players. We seem to be being very nice at the moment which is a little bit frustrating when we’ve got people being kicked left, right and center on our team.”
“I think perhaps there is a lack of bite and it’s been inconsistent because the team has had it at certain points this season. It just hasn’t been there through all the games,” Luis Garrido told MLSsoccer.com through a translator. “We have to be concentrated for a full 90 minutes not just for periods of time.”
Houston knows that providing an answer is as simple as evening out their play on both sides of the ball. Getting that done, however, is proving difficult for a team that’s trying to find its way.
“We’re halfway through the season and we’re not where we want to be or where we should be right now,” Barnes said. “I keep saying it’s going to be a matter of time before it starts to flow on a consistent basis.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.