Houston Dynamo point to lineup inconsistency through injuries, call-ups as big reason for struggles

HOUSTON – They’ve had nearly a full season under first-year coach Owen Coyle, but with six games left the Houston Dynamo are still struggling with a lack of consistency.

It’s a big reason why they’re currently out of the playoff picture and remain a long shot to jump back in the mix.

The Dynamo certainly aren’t throwing in the towel yet, but they’re six points out of the final playoff slot, meaning it’s a long shot. Should they finish the year on the outside looking in, that lack of consistency could very well be defining factor of a tough season.

“I think the one thing that comes with consistency is continuity in selection and we’ve not had that,” Coyle said. “In terms of consistency, that comes with having your players together at the right time, and we’ve likely been hurt by that more than most. If you go through every game you’ll probably find three or four what I would call starters missing in games.”

While there are a number of issues for the club this season, Coyle’s point has merit. Houston have started the same lineup in back-to-back games just once this year, as injuries and international absences have plagued the club.

Houston’s defense has been hit hardest lately with Kofi Sarkodie, DaMarcus Beasley and Jermaine Taylor all missing time. That area struggled in a 3-1 loss to Real Salt Lake on Saturday night. They’ve also dealt with injuries to Brad Davis, Giles Barnes, Boniek Garcia and Ricardo Clark, among others.

“We’ve named the same team once; we’ve been able to do that once the whole season,” Coyle said. “We don’t hide behind anything … we ultimately have missed a lot of players at a lot of times for various reasons, and that’s what brings you consistency.

“As much as we have young players coming in and helping us, we’re getting better doing that there’s no doubt about it, it’s a big ask to replace a Giles Barnes, not for one game but for seven or eight games. Replace a DaMarcus Beasley for four or five and Ricardo Clark and Brad Davis and Boniek Garcia for two months.”

International absences and injuries are part of the equation for any club, but there’s no question Houston have been hit especially hard. The bottom line, however, is they haven’t dealt well enough with the setbacks.

Saturday was the latest example of coming up short despite a chance to pick up points against a RSL side that is similarly struggling.

Injuries played a role, but the words “fragile” and “soft” were tossed around to describe their defensive efforts, while they also failed to capitalize on chances in the attack.

There also appears to be little relief in sight.

Defender Raul Rodriguez will be suspended for Houston’s next match, on the road Sunday against the Philadelphia Union (7 pm ET; FS1), due to yellow card accumulation.

And Designated Player Erick “Cubo” Torres exited at the half Saturday with what Coyle called a groin injury. One aspect to watch Sunday will be if Coyle sticks with the two-forward formation that he’s used in recent matches or goes back to five in the midfield, which has been used for the bulk of the season.

“When you lose any game, then the percentages always become slimmer,” Coyle said. “We have to focus on putting a run together. … It all goes back to bringing that consistency, consistency within games and consistency from game-to-game.”

Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.