International absences? No problem for Houston Dynamo

With three players on international duty, "reserves" step up for Houston

HOUSTON – The term “reserves” doesn’t play in the Houston Dynamo locker room. With the depth at Dominic Kinnear’s disposal comes the mantra that every player can – and should – hold the standard on any given night.

On Saturday night, that concept was put to the test as the Dynamo were forced to make three changes in their starting lineup. With Brad Davis, Boniek Garcia and Jermaine Taylor all away on international duty, Houston turned to Andrew Driver, Warren Creavalle and Eric Brunner.

After 90-minute shifts from all three in a 2-1 win, including the game-winning goal from Creavalle, the new starters not only held the fort, they played a key role in the Dynamo's 33rd consecutive result at home.

“We don’t talk about fill-ins, we talk about players and victories,” Kinnear said after the match. “They’re not here to replace somebody; they’re here to keep us winning. When we step on the field they know the expectation is to try and win. Those guys did that tonight.”

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Kinnear has always been upfront with the players outside Houston’s starting XI. With CONCACAF Champions League and US Open Cup games on the docket in addition to regular season action, their opportunities will come. The key is to make the most of them.

Understandably, Creavalle will get the headlines after scoring a goal that epitomized his style of play. The hardworking midfielder got the final touch during a scrum in front of the Whitecaps’ net to notch the winner, erasing some potential angst that a few early misses may have brought.

Similarly, Driver and Brunner put in performances that made it easy to forget the Dynamo were missing three of their most important players.

Driver made his first MLS start count, displaying an endless work rate and putting the right side of Vancouver’s defense under pressure. Still, Driver said he was a bit disappointed with his play in the attack, noting that his father, who is in town with his family, will likely have a word with him about his crosses. His work ethic, however, was never in question.

At the back, Brunner made every play required in Taylor’s absence save for one, as the ever-dangerous Darren Mattocks turned the center back for Vancouver’s only goal.

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“I think they’ve done well,” midfielder Giles Barnes, who scored Houston’s opener, said. “Warren scored a goal, Andrew played well and Eric Brunner was fantastic at the back today as well. None of them put a foot wrong.”

So while they may technically be reserves in the strictest sense, it’s clear Houston’s confidence in their depth is warranted. On a night where the Whitecaps looked primed to turn a first-half goal into a streak-busting win, the Dynamo roster stood up and answered the bell.

“We have a very deep team, in my opinion one of the deeper teams in the league,” Brunner said. “I think that showed tonight.”

Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.