The Houston Dynamo just can’t figure things out this year. If it’s not a problem with injuries, then there are problems with players, if the players are ok, then the schedule is congested; if there are no problems and everyone is healthy, well, then the Dynamo are actually a decent side.
But the reality is that the Dynamo are playing having to make adjustments around hurt players and young players, and the constant merry-go-round of injuries means that the team cannot gel together properly.
All of these issues have been exposed lately, but they seemed to come to a head on Tuesday night when the Dynamo lost to bottom-of-the-table Chivas USA.
The problems for Houston started as soon as the ball was kicked off. Just like they have over the last ten weeks, the Dynamo started the game with flat feet and immediately let the opposition take control of the match.
Chivas USA capitalized on Houston’s cold feet and cloud minds by opening up the scoring in the fifth minute off of a Justin Braun header. The header came off of a free kick from just outside Houston’s box and was the result of some senselessly aggressive play from Houston’s defense. Braun’s header caught the Dynamo defense on their heals after he was able to get up and over everyone and take a clear shot at goal.
For Tally Hall, this was his first goal to give up in competitive play this season, though his defense should shoulder most of the blame.
Braun’s goal quieted the small crowd and seemed to shake Houston’s focus (if there was any to start with).
Chances in the first half were limited for both teams, but Houston’s best chance of the half came in the 28th minute when Dominic Oduro broke through the Chivas USA defense and found himself 1-on-1 with Zach Thornton. Oduro fired a low shot, but Thorton was able to block it with his leg, denying Houston the equalizer.
Houston Head Coach Dominic Kinnear was forced to use his first substitution of the game in the 34th minute when Mike Chabala was brought on for defender Ryan Cochrane who was injured in a nasty collision with Justin Braun. While the addition of Chabala gave Houston some more mobility from the back line, it also created space for Chivas USA to counterattack when Chabala pushed up the pitch on attack.
Houston went into the half time break down 1-0 and found themselves chasing a physical game with limited scoring chances.
The Dynamo came out of the half much more aggressive and were clearly pushing to get an early equalizer. The team was able to mount a few successful attacking runs but were never able to really test Zach Thorton. Houston had loads of possession outside the box, but had trouble creating opportunities in a scoring position.
Chivas USA was able to capitalize on Houston’s unbalanced play in the 65th minute when Michael Lahoud scored on a break down by Houston’s defense. Craig Waibel was out of position as he pushed up field leaving Danny Cruz to track back and defend. Cruz was unable to catch up to Lahoud who slotted a low shot just past Tally Hall into the corner of the net.
The Dynamo nearly conceded a third goal in the 74th minute when Michael Lahoud found himself 1-on-1 against Tally Hall who tipped his low, fast shot just wide of goal.
Houston made things interesting in the 86th minute when Dominic Oduro deflected a shot struck a shot by Joseph Ngwenya. The Dynamo deserved the goal after all of the build-up play, especially with Chivas USA looking like they wanted to sit back and close out the game.
Justin Braun canceled out Houston’s goal in the 90th minute of the match after he split Mike Chabala and Eddie Robinson, chipping a shot into goal. Tally Hall got a finger on the shot, but it was not enough to stop the ball from going into the goal.
The lose for Houston is a bit of a mixed result for the struggling club. While the players and staff will be disappointed to go out of the Open Cup, a tournament they could have won, this result helps free up Houston’s schedule. What should be concerning for Houston fans is the club’s continued defensive and mental breakdowns. For yet another time, the Houston defense allowed an early goal and found themselves chasing a game they could have easily controlled.
The other issue that is hurting this team is the lack of a consistent and cohesive midfield. Injuries, a busy schedule, and suspensions have forced Coach Kinnear to rotate players in and out of the line-up and their normal positions, resulting in a very obvious lack of cohesion and communication in the middle of the pitch.
From a tactical standpoint, starting the game in a 3-5-2 seemed like an aggressive move, especially with a less than mobile back line, which exposed Houston to Chivas USA counterattacks. Also, playing with five men in the midfield resulted in too much congestion with the players running into each other as they tried to create space. The Dynamo seemed like they would have been better served to switch to a 3-4-3, or even a 3-4-1-2, pushing Joseph Ngwenya further up the pitch into more of a forward role.
The arguments against such a move are that you want Ngwenya, Houston’s most creative player, in the middle of the pitch; but, it does no good to have him in the middle if he cannot distribute the ball to his teammates due to congestion and a lack of discipline.
Regardless, the Dynamo will be without Ngwenya, who picked up a red card against Toronto FC, when they take on the Columbus Crew on Saturday night. This will be the first of five consecutive home games for the Dynamo, which is, hopefully, enough time to correct Houston’s lingering issues.
CHV — Justin Braun (Mariano Trujillo) 5
CHV — Michael Lahoud (Ante Jazic) 65
HOU — Dominic Oduro (Joseph Ngwenya) 86
CHV — Justin Braun (unassisted) 90
Chivas USA — Zach Thornton, Mariano Trujillo, Michael Umaña, Yamith Cuesta, Ante Jazic (Carlos Borja 66), Michael Lahoud, Marcelo Saragosa, Ben Zemanski, Blair Gavin (Dario Delgado 72), Jesus Padilla (Gerson Mayen 77), Justin Braun.
Houston Dynamo — Tally Hall, Craig Waibel, Eddie Robinson, Ryan Cochrane (Mike Chabala 35), Francisco Navas Cobo, Adrian Serioux, Richard Mulrooney (Lovel Palmer 74), Joseph Ngwenya, Sammy Appiah (Danny Cruz 56), Dominic Oduro, Cam Weaver.
Major League Soccer
Saturday, July 10, 7:30 p.m. vs. Columbus Crew, Robertson Stadium
The Dynamo start their first of five consecutive home games this weekend when they host the red-hot Columbus Crew, who sit atop the Eastern Conference with 27 points.