On Saturday night the Houston Dynamo played one half of fantastic soccer and one half of absolutely dreadful soccer.
The game was a tale of two halves which only made the 2-1 loss that much more difficult to accept.
As soon as the referee signaled the beginning of the match, the Dynamo started a half characterized by tough, aggressive and attacking play. The team dominated Toronto FC, pinning them back in their half for almost the entire first forty-five minutes.
Toronto broke out once or twice, but never really threatened the Dynamo defense of veteran goalkeeper Pat Onstad.
Instead it was Houston, who looked like the attacking team from 2006 and 2007, who dictated the pace of play and continued to press on the attack. Perhaps the best stat of the first half\, the one that really proves Houston’s dominance is that the Dynamo had nine first half corner kicks compared to Toronto’s one.
The Dynamo opened up the scoring in the eighteenth minute when Brian Ching headed in a great ball from Brad Davis from a set piece. The midfielder swung in a cross that met Ching’s head inside the box before finding the back of the net. It was the goal Houston needed and one that seemed to bolster their belief that they could win the game.
All of those good feelings were erased as soon as the second half started. Toronto FC came out of the locker room with a fire under their butts and quickly took control of the match. The physicality of the game was immediately ramped up as both teams traded tackles and shoves, with Houston trying to slow down the much improved Toronto attack.
Dwayne De Rosario punished Houston’s lack of focus in the sixtieth minute when he blasted in a goal that came from a set piece play. Toronto midfielder Maicon Santos passed the free kick to De Rosario who smashed in a shot from just outside the Dynamo box.
It was a goal that seemed to shock the Dynamo, which was fine for Toronto, who started to believe that the game could be won, keeping their playoff dreams alive.
Toronto’s playoff dreams looked over, that is until the ninety-third minute when Dynamo defender Eddie Robinson pulled down De Rosario just outside the box, preventing him from continuing the attack. All the Dynamo needed to do was block the resulting free kick to keep the draw, but the team could not even do that. De Rosario again punished the Dynamo, pummeling the free kick into the back of Houston’s net, keeping Toronto’s playoff dreams alive.
So what happened to Houston in the second half? It seemed like the team that dominated the beginning of the game simply checked out and left the stadium, allowing Toronto to play their style game, snatching a late victory. After controlling the first half, Houston simply thought the second half would be just as easy and opted to coast through the remaining forty-five minutes. That lapse in judgment and lack of mental focus cost the Dynamo dearly. Not only are any hopes of the playoffs gone, but so is this confidence in the team.
So what happens now? Well, the Dynamo still have six games left, and while their season is essentially over they still need to play their part and close out the remaining games with dignity and a desire to win. Should Coach Dominic Kinnear play his young guys and see who he should keep for next year? That’s his call, but it would be nice to see where this team stands and what exactly they need to work on ahead of what will surely be a long and painful off-season.
Fans will get a glimpse of what’s next this coming weekend when the Dynamo travel to Washington D.C. to take on bottom-feeders D.C.United.