Revamping the lineup and integrating the new blood have been two of the bigger story lines during the Houston Dynamo’s preseason. But as Houston keep playing games, it’s a much bigger plot point that is emerging:
Why can’t they score goals off the run of play?
As of Tuesday, with the Dynamo and Sounders playing to a 2-2 draw in Orlando, Houston have now scored 14 goals in four preseason games. And all but two of them have come off set pieces (one was an own-goal). That's not a huge worry, says Brad Davis.
“Our team’s been successful off set pieces and won championships with the way we play,” the veteran midfielder told MLSsoccer.com last week in Phoenix. “We know how we play, we’re good at what we do, we score goals off set pieces. So if it doesn’t come from the run of play – set pieces, corner kicks – that’s all part of the game.”
Still, it’s a concern for many observers of the Dynamo, who are undergoing their biggest transition since moving to Houston after a 2010 season that didn’t yield a postseason appearance. The team has always relied on its big bodies to score goals, as target men like Brian Ching, Cam Weaver and even defender Eddie Robinson have been reliable scorers off set pieces.
Coach Dominic Kinnear is hoping to find weapons this season from other sources, such as midfielder Danny Cruz (who scored the Dynamo’s first preseason goal off the run of play last week), new acquisition Jason Garey and draftees such as forward Will Bruin and Kofi Sarkodie (an overlapping fullback who can get forward).
But perhaps no player on the Dynamo roster feels more pressure to contribute more on offense this season than Davis, who has been with the team since its first season in Houston.
“I’ve been at the five, six [goal] mark for a lot of my career,” he said. “I wouldn’t mind having a season where I put together double-digits, or close to it, in goals. I put a little bit of pressure on myself.”
Davis is quick to add, however, that as long as Houston are scoring, he doesn’t care who’s putting the ball in the back of the net. It’s the 10th-year veteran’s job to provide service, which he plans on continuing to do in 2011. His 12 assists last season was the third-best mark in the league.
This year, he’ll have even more targets to hit with the addition of the 6-foot-2 Bruin in front of goal, perhaps next to 6-foot-1 Ching or the 6-4 Weaver. And if those opportunities keep coming on corners and free kicks, that’s fine with Davis.
“Whoever may be paired up there, it’s my job to try to put the ball in a good spot for them,” he said.