With a defense that has been porous the past four games, to the tune of 12 goals conceded, and an offense that’s sputtered, the Houston Dynamo are looking to find any advantage they can in a pivotal road game Saturday night at the Philadelphia Union (6:30 pm CT; CSN Plus, Mega TV, MLS Free Stream of the Week).
That advantage could well be gained on the flanks.
Houston has traditionally been a team that’s feasted on the flanks. And after seeing the Union struggle to shut down Shea Salinas and Cordell Cato in a 1-0 loss against the San Jose Earthquakes last week, the Dynamo could head outside to find the success they are desperately looking for. The Dynamo could jump into the Eastern Conference playoff places with a win over Philadelphia, who sit just two points above them in the standings.
“You’re always looking for something, some advantage,” said head coach Dominic Kinnear. “It never exactly duplicates. Teams address a situation and fix them. We’re going to try and play our flanks anyways.”
Though the wide parts of the field will serve as a likely point of attack, Houston will be lacking one of their main weapons in that position. Boniek Garcia will miss the game as he serves one-game suspension handed down by the Disciplinary Committee for a hard foul in the Dynamo's 1-1 draw with Chicago two weeks ago.
With Brad Davis likely to hold down the left flank and provide a serious threat, the player taking up the mantle on the opposite side has been rookie Jason Johnson, who is coming into his own after seeing increased playing time in the past couple months and can stretch the field and turn the Union defense with his speed.
“You look at J.J., he’s got every attribute you need to be a top player,” said Giles Barnes. “The more he plays, the more he learns and when that package comes together, eventually, I think it’s going to be something special.”
With a team that’s struggling to stop their opponents and an offense that’s looking for that killer instinct, finding an advantage on the flanks in the run of play could be just what the Dynamo are looking for. If not, Houston will fall further behind the eight ball in the playoff race.
“We’ve got to get back on the right track,” said Brad Davis. “We’ve got to go out and put our best foot forward. It’s that time of year where it doesn’t matter anymore; it’s time to win games.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.