Result not what they wanted, but play against Sporting Kansas City continues positive trends for Houston Dynamo
After Wednesday's hard work, it's time to watch and wait to see how other results change the Eastern Conference's crowded playoff picture.
Houston shared the points with Sporting Kansas City at BBVA Compass Stadium—a result that keeps them third in the standings, four points behind Peter Vermes' side and two ahead of the Montreal Impact.
The Dynamo do not play again until they host the leaders, the New York Red Bulls, on October 20 (TICKETS). In the meantime, Montreal make up their two fixtures in hand on Houston with games at home to the play-off chasing New England Revolution on Saturday and away to the Los Angeles Galaxy next Wednesday.
Two other clubs who could still catch the Dynamo are also in action on Saturday. The Philadelphia Union visit bottom side D.C. United while the Chicago Fire head to Frisco to face FC Dallas. Wednesday's point means that the Columbus Crew can no longer overtake the Dynamo.
The goalless draw brought a different brand of frustration than the kind Houston felt earlier in the season. Then, there was a sense that the team was playing below its potential. On Wednesday it simply seemed as if a strong performance had not received its just reward.
Houston had 60 percent of possession and took twelve shots to Sporting's four, but SKC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen was in unbeatable mode. So the Dynamo were not too downcast afterwards. The result was not idea, but the display continued recent positive trends.
"We sure did create some good chances and defended well. Not really completely thrilled with a point but really happy with the way the guys played, the way they competed," said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear. "I thought we had enough chances to be good for a goal, sometimes the other team defends well and that's what I though they did."
With 33 fouls (21 committed by the visitors) and six yellow cards (two given to Dynamo players), the night was as competitive as expected, but the Dynamo back line held firm for its third shutout in the past five MLS fixtures. Eric Brunner impressed at center back in his first appearance for a month, deputizing for Jermaine Taylor, who is with Jamaica.
"I think we played a full 90 minutes, we were solid defensively and whenever you keep a zero on the board on the defensive end that's a success. I think our defense did a very good job of organizing—good team defense—and we created a lot of chances," said striker Will Bruin.
"It could easily have been three- or four-nothing but that's just the way soccer goes sometimes. We're going to look at the positives from this because we've still got two games left to make some moves."
Brunner and Andrew Driver provided reasons to be cheerful: not just in their performances but their stamina. Just back from injuries, both played the full 90 minutes. Normally left-sided but operating on the right wing in place of Boniek García, who is away with Honduras, it was Driver's first complete game in three months.
Unusually, the Dynamo did not make a switch until the 89th minute, when Cam Weaver replaced Giles Barnes. Kinnear said he left it so late to freshen up the formula because the team's energy was high and the weather was cool.
"I don't think that happens in July or August, to be honest, I think we're making subs earlier on," he said. "That's why I stuck with the guys for so long, because it was a perfect night and the level of intensity never stopped or dropped. Good to see them get through this, the next week is going to lead up to something really big for us, games against New York, then in Panama [versus Árabe Unido] and D.C. So to have as many healthy guys as possible and know they can go for long periods of time is a great bonus for us."
Since a loss to New York at home on September 8 put their playoff aspirations in serious doubt, the Dynamo have responded to that wake-up call and embarked on a run of three wins and two draws in five MLS games, as well as a victory over W Connection in the CONCACAF Champions League.
"I think we're still on a good run of form, I really do. So that's the biggest thing," said captain Brad Davis, who was called into the U.S. national roster on Thursday for upcoming games against Jamaica and Panama.
"We're putting together some good games, we're keeping zeroes on the scoreboard, for the most part we're keeping teams low. We went through a period where we were conceding a lot of goals. When you get to the postseason, the end of the year, you can't have that happen. So we kind of righted that and in the last five games we've played some good ball and we did again [against Kansas City]."
Now there is a strong chance that the great rivals could meet in the playoffs for the third successive year. "That would be fun to meet them again, we'll see what happens there," said Bruin.
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.