There are results that will haunt a team during a long season. Houston’s 2-2 draw against the Red Bulls Saturday night certainly has the potential to be one.
After battling back from the earliest 1-0 deficit in team history to take a 2-1 lead with just over eight minutes to go, the Dynamo succumbed to a lack of concentration and dropped two crucial points to a New York team ahead of them in the standings.
“We got bookended,” said Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear. “It was a pretty sloppy start by us. [Dane] Richards had a good hit. You can say the first was in the run of play but the second one, to give a free header and allow a goal in the 91st minute, it’s shame on us, and it was a lack of concentration.”
Lack of concentration and focus was the running theme in the Dynamo locker room as the team failed to lock up the full three points. Richards struck just 39 seconds into the match, driving home a knock-down from forward Luke Rodgers before much of the crowd had even taken their seats.
But Mehdi Ballouchy’s equalizer was worse, especially because it came in an area in which the Dynamo feel they are one of the best teams in the league: set pieces. Allowing the less-than-imposing Ballouchy to get free is a mistake that reminds the team of hard lessons learned in 2010.
“We definitely feel frustrated,” said defender Andre Hainault. “I thought we learned enough about this last year giving up that late goal. Then again, we can’t give up early goals either.”
Hainault’s frustration was echoed by Kinnear.
“It wasn’t a missed assignment, but it was a lack of aggression in an area we always stress,” Kinnear said of the equalizing goal. “We let our guard down, and they took advantage. “
All in all, Houston - a team that has shown flashes of being a MLS Cup contender - will look to learn from games like Saturday’s. But in the short term, the team is left to wonder what could have been.
“We definitely need to learn from this,” Hainault said. “You can’t give up leads, and you can’t give up late on set pieces.”
“They’ve got a lot of good players, but it comes down to us putting it on ourselves, and I think we can do better managing the game,” said goalkeeper Tally Hall, who ended with four saves on the night. “In the end, we needed to keep the ball better and needed to fight harder than them to win set piece battles.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.