Frustrating loss in Frisco lends itself to positives for Houston Dynamo
Though the Dynamo exited the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday, one man's entrance was a positive to take from the game.
Continuing his long path back to full fitness after off-season surgery on his right knee, the forward replaced his fellow Jamaican, Jason Johnson, in the 79th minute with the fourth-round tie already out of the Dynamo's reach.
Cummings came through unscathed and almost grabbed a goal in the 83rd minute, but his low shot from inside the area hit the outside of goalkeeper Chris Seitz's right-hand post.
The 30-year-old was acquired from the Colorado Rapids in December last year. He had his best season in 2010 when he scored 14 MLS regular-season goals in 28 starts.
Frustratingly given his potential, he has played only ten minutes in MLS so far this year: as a late substitute in the win over the Vancouver Whitecaps on March 23 and the defeat to the Portland Timbers on April 6. But he came off the bench in last Saturday's reserves match against the Charleston Battery and head coach Dominic Kinnear was encouraged enough to give him a run-out in the Texas Derby.
"He looked dangerous, he looks like he wants it which is good to see. You can tell he's been anxious to play and I thought his ten minutes tonight showed you what kind of a threat he can be. Hopefully this is a good sign of him getting more minutes on the field," said Kinnear.
"The situation was not the best for the team but that's what you're there for. When you come off the bench you expect to bring a spark, you expect to lift the guys when you come on and I just tried to do the best I can, get a goal and get us back in the game," Cummings told HoustonDynamo.com.
He was pleased to return to first-team action and grateful to the away supporters who made the long trek north. "It's not a home crowd but we had some fans here and I'm always happy when you have fans in the crowd supporting the team and you, it was good to see them," he said.
Cummings is now trying to balance his desire to be a regular contributor to his new team as soon as possible with the need to be prudent and not risk a setback in his recovery by over-exerting the knee. He's aware that with the season less than halfway through, he can afford to be patient.
"I'm trying to be careful but at the same time push myself where I can be up for selection," he said. "I'll be on the side of cautious a little bit, check myself in games and after practice, make sure I'm still doing the right treatment, still keeping up with my exercises, stuff like that. There are probably 20 games or more so that's still a ways in the season. We have that and still have to push for the playoffs and if we make it there anything can happen."
With Cummings edging closer to full fitness and Calen Carr also set to return later in the season, the Dynamo are looking forward to having two valuable extra options in attack down the stretch.
Another plus was a mature performance from Warren Creavalle in central midfield. The 22-year-old distributed the ball well and earned Kinnear's praise.
"I thought Warren had a good game. I thought he was good, made some good decisions on the ball, he was winning tackles. You could tell he's played a little bit now, he feels more comfortable there now and I thought he was very consistent all night," he said.
After falling on the road to the best in the Western Conference, the Dynamo next head to the club that's leading the Eastern Conference standings. A gap of two-and-a-half weeks without an MLS fixture ends next Wednesday against the Montreal Impact in Stade Saputo.
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.