HOUSTON – With five matches left in the regular season, there’s little optimism around the Houston Dynamo. A two-game losing streak has put the club’s season on the brink of being over nearly a month before their season finale at Vancouver on Oct. 25.
As they prepare to face rivals Sporting Kansas City – a team looking to cement their playoff positioning – on Wednesday (8:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE), the Dynamo’s focus could be as much on next year as finishing the season strong.
“To make the playoffs, that’s a big ask. There’s no getting away from that, considering we’ve given up the last two games,” head coach Owen Coyle told the media Tuesday. “We as a group have to go in and show a reaction to the losses and show a bit of character.
“As it is, we now have five games where we want to play well and we want to go and try and win games. That’s what I’m looking for from those players from right now to the end of the season. To show who wants to be part of Houston Dynamo, to show who wants to be here.”
Heading into a home game against Real Salt Lake two weeks ago, the feeling was the Dynamo still had as good a chance as any team battling for the final playoff spot. But the Orange did not respond, giving up three goals against RSL, then conceding two more goals – certified as soft by the team – in last week's 2-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union.
Part of that strong finish will involve shoring up the defense, cleaning up mistakes and bringing some bite to the game from the first kick.
“Yeah, not give up goals,” quipped David Horst when asked about the answers to the Dynamo's defensive struggles. “We’ve been soft and I think we need to toughen up a little bit and put in some hard tackles and let Kansas City know we’re here to play.
“I want to see every single guy that steps on that field show that they want to win the game as much as the next guy. Fighting for each other and battling from the first whistle to the last whistle: That’s all you can ask for.”
Even if Houston beat Kansas City, the playoff hill is probably too big to climb at this point in the season. The club currently sits six points out from the Western Conference's final post-season berth, but would have to jump three teams to take that spot.
But Horst and Coyle want to see the same things. Seeing which players continue to fight and continue to work could influence decisions in the offseason, as the coming winter will likely continue the changes the club has made over the past year.
That could mean getting Mauro Manotas, Leonel Miranda and other young players some more time on the field in a busy week that includes a home game against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday (8:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
“You look at the group and particularly younger players, they’re growing and getting better. But I don’t think there’s anyone in the group that hasn’t gotten a chance to play,” Coyle said. “It might be one or two get an opportunity on Wednesday. We’ve also got a game on Saturday, so it’s something we’ll look at to make sure we have the necessary freshness for two games at home.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.