Dynamo hope to turn over a new leaf in New York
It is impossible to replicate that moment when a player has a chance and the strange chemistry of pressure, confidence, technique and luck combines in a split-second to decide whether a shot scores or misses.
But the Dynamo are doing everything in their power this week to lay the groundwork for success in their next match, away to the New York Red Bulls on Sunday (1 p.m. CT, ESPN2/ESPNDeportes).
Houston are still in a play-off place in the Eastern Conference and the MLS season is not even half-way through, so there is no sense of alarm. Only frustration that lately the team's results have not met the high standard it sets itself. Last Saturday's goalless draw with Toronto FC at BBVA Compass Stadium was the Dynamo's sixth successive MLS fixture without a victory.
That streak has included impressive road points against Sporting Kansas City and the Columbus Crew, and the Dynamo have consistently enjoyed plenty of possession and fashioned numerous chances. But the team has lately not converted its opportunities with the same efficiency as earlier in the season.
There is no magic formula to correct that, but midfielder Adam Moffat says the players are focused this week on sharpening their skills in front of goal and that the Dynamo will respond to a challenge as they always do: by working harder.
"We're disappointed. It's on ourselves," the 27-year-old said of the winless run. "It's a tough one but we'll work hard this week, go over a few things, changing our approach.
"We've spoken about it a lot, getting off to a good start in games. We've spoken about it a lot but we haven't done it. It doesn't help when you come out and you're on the back foot a little bit and it's hard to turn that around in games. Dom's addressing that and other stuff.
"Sometimes guys are feeling good in front of goal, sometimes they're going on runs and scoring goals and sometimes it dries up for them. Maybe it's just getting the ball in the back of the net, getting somebody going."
A Dynamo striker hasn't scored in MLS since the 4-0 win over D.C. United on May 8. But winger Boniek Garcia returned to full training this week after picking up a hamstring injury on international duty with Honduras. That should help boost the supply line to the forwards, assuming he starts on Sunday in Red Bull Arena.
Head coach Dominic Kinnear is taking a measured approach and believes it will not take much of an adjustment to turn draws into wins. He is reminding his charges to trust in their talent. "It's just confidence - to look around the locker room and understand you have a lot of quality players in there. A couple of weeks ago it was like, 'how great of a squad this is' and now it's 'what's going on with the Dynamo?'. So you try not to love yourself, you try not to beat yourself up too much," he said.
"You really just kind of look around and say, 'OK, there are a lot of important games coming up, we're not going to not win in 18 games left in the season'. We just hope it's sooner not later."
As a Dynamo original, Brian Ching has seen the team enter – and exit – difficult stretches several times before. "I think something we've always done is that you've just got to put more work in, you kind of create your own luck. There are lulls in the season, ups and downs, and obviously we're in a down right now but the way you get out of downs is you work hard and sometimes when you do that you create your own luck; you get an opportunity here and it builds confidence, things like that," the striker said.
"Is everyone probably frustrated? Yeah. The main thing we can't do is throw our hands up in the air and stop working and start complaining about things. I think we're a team that always responded well to adversity and I think we're going to attack this problem the same way."
Tom Dart is a contributing writer to HoustonDynamo.com. Former editor and reporter for The Times of London, Dart currently freelances for The Guardian and SI.com.