Much-needed win over Philadelphia Union strengthens Houston Dynamo's confidence moving forward
No one on the Dynamo's roster would argue with the famous saying that "winning isn't everything – it's the only thing". The team goes into a key match this weekend with renewed confidence after the long and frustrating wait for a win was ended last Saturday.
A deserved 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union snapped a seven-match streak without a win in MLS. And picking up three points at BBVA Compass Stadium refreshed the side's self-belief, according to Warren Creavalle.
"Definitely. The locker room hasn't been down per se in this dry spell but everybody was definitely, 'we need to get back on the right track' and fortunately we did that. We weren't necessarily playing bad but not getting those finishes that we need," he told HoustonDynamo.com.
The pattern of play echoed previous games, with the Dynamo enjoying plenty of possession and creating numerous chances, but struggling to convert. Then Ricardo Clark found the net with a second-half header and that was enough as a defense missing both regular outside backs did a solid job of containing dangerous opponents.
Deputizing for the suspended Kofi Sarkodie, Creavalle's performance at right back was one of the highlights, underlining his versatility and growing reputation. The 22-year-old can also play in midfield. "I've had a few games at right back, so it's not something that's unfamiliar for me ... with every game comes a new lesson I'm learning, whether it be from my mistakes or older guys on the field bringing me along with them," he said.
With the team still seeking to be more ruthless in front of goal, Creavalle believes there is plenty more to come from Houston as MLS enters the second half of the season. "Absolutely, there's always room for improvement, we can get dangerous, hit a little streak like we did last summer," he said.
One reason for optimism is the improving form and fitness of striker Omar Cummings. After a handful of substitute appearances, the off-season acquisition from the Colorado Rapids made his first Dynamo start on Saturday, the latest milestone in his lengthy recovery from knee surgery last winter.
He'd been dreaming of the moment when he would line up for the national anthem in front of the home fans at BBVA Compass Stadium. "Walking out on that field, the build up, it was all great, I was waiting in anticipation for the match to start," the 30-year-old told HoustonDynamo.com.
"I think I could take a lot of positives away from the game. I didn't score, had some chances but it's a work in progress. Once you're getting chances, that's one of the hardest things to do. The aim is to put it in the back of the net and that's the next step. There's fitness, there's game sharpness, there's scoring goals, I still have a way to go."
Cummings started in attack with Giles Barnes in the absence of last year's leading scorer, Will Bruin, who is on Gold Cup duty with the U.S. national team. Bruin and Dynamo teammate Corey Ashe were unused substitutes in last night's 6-1 rout of Belize in Portland.
Helped by the return to action of winger Boniek Garcia, there was some incisive play against the Union and Cummings believes that as he logs more minutes alongside Barnes, the pair will develop their understanding. "I don't think we are where we want to be yet, obviously it was the first time playing together. So we just need to build on the relationship here in practice and try to get on the same page," said the Jamaican.
"We created enough chances, I think we were happy with the chances we created, but the next step is definitely putting those in the back of the net. That's going to be vital especially in tighter games, where you get one or two chances and need to put them away."
This Saturday's trip to Gillette Stadium to face the New England Revolution (6:30 p.m. CT; KPRC Local 2 / Mega TV) could be one of those scenarios where every shot counts. The Revolution beat the Dynamo 2-0 at BBVA Compass Stadium in May and have emerged as playoff contenders. They will go above Houston with a win this weekend, so Cummings knows it's time for the Dynamo's attack to bare its teeth.
"They seem to be in good form. They've been winning their games and doing well at home so again, in tight games that's where you need those one or two chances to be put away," he said.
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.