FRISCO, Texas — As the Houston Dynamo watched FC Dallas extend their lead at the top of the Western Conference with a 4-2 Texas Derby win in Frisco, the Dynamo are left to look at their own diminishing playoff chances.
Results both in North Texas and further afield didn't go their way, leaving a 13-point gap from the final playoff spot to tenth-place Houston. The result also marked ten games without a win in MLS play, something that will have to change if the Dynamo want to emulate last year's run to the Western Conference Championship.
Defensively, the Dynamo have kept things tight. Through nine games entering the Texas Derby decider, they conceded 12 goals. On the attacking side of the ball, however, they had only scored five times. Their next opponent, the Portland Timbers, have endured their own rough patch of late. with only one win in their last six games. And before that game on Sept. 15 (8:30 pm ET | TV & streaming info), there is the matter of the international break. How do you keep a team focused on changing the narrative during the pause in league play?
"We're going to continue to work and fight," said Houston Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera. "We can't be forgetting how to defend and how to work together. We need to come back and give us the option to show ourselves. Now it’s about pride and to prove ourselves that we can come back, and we can avoid making defensive mistakes. It's going to be important to relax and go on this two-week break where we will start working more defensively and as a group. Hopefully we can go to the last stretch of games with better confidence and better results."
While road games have been a particular weakness for Houston this year, with only one win away from home, they also qualified for last year's postseason with a single road victory. Their 2017 home form was second only to the treble-winning Toronto FC side. This year started with a dominant 4-0 home win over Atlanta United; however, BBVA Compass Stadium has not looked like the fortress of 2017, as two Texas Derby ties bookended three consecutive defeats in Space City.
Houston's remaining schedule is loaded with intra-conference games. Their only fixture against an Eastern Conference team is when they travel to Orlando City SC later in the month. Cabrera intends to approach every remaining game like it's do or die, starting with the Timbers' visit in which the two teams will scrap for their postseason fortunes.
"We just have to think that every game for us going to be a final," said Cabrera. "We need to play and give our best. If we do our best, we need to come back to our confidence, and the mentality that we're a good team. The results are what give you confidence."