Change doesn’t happen overnight, and that certainly holds true for the Houston Dynamo.
As a team that’s played a helter-skelter season, the Dynamo are now looking for the right mix of confidence and hard work — something that has served them well in the past — to propel them back in the right direction.
“I think it’s been a question of attitude or a lack of confidence,” forward Brian Ching said. “At times we play really well, but it’s up and down — and that’s the sign of a young team and a team that’s unsure of itself.”
Identifying the issue is only half the battle; figuring out the remedy is the hard part. The current consensus, though, is to raise the intensity and restore the team’s mental toughness.
“I think we need to have more intense practices and make them harder and make them like game situations, so we can prepare ourselves better for the weekends,” Ching said. “I think we’ve gotten away from that, and part of that is being a young team and having changeover.”
So where does that mentality come from? Ching says it starts with the veterans, but injuries have kept them from instilling their brand of soccer to a suddenly young group.
“A few years ago, I think it was just understood that you have to work hard in training,” Ching said. “We had a good group of veterans that bought into that, and the new guys who came in would either sink or swim. With all the changes in the past two years and with Eddie [Robinson] and me not being around as much as we’d like ... we haven’t been able to instill that type of fight and intensity in practices.”
The message is being heard loud and clear. Trainings over the past few weeks have seen a marked rise in both physical and mental intensity. With the heat rising and play on the field getting tougher, the Dynamo are making a genuine attempt to restore the missing grittiness.
“I think it’s something we’ve done well in the past few days,” Ching said. “I think we have the players to make a good run at it, but we need our group to believe in itself and be confident and be tougher guys."
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.