There were some surprises when the Houston Dynamo lineup was released for Saturday’s game against D.C. United.
Dominic Kinnear made five changes to his starting 11 from the week before. Though one change was forced — Je-Vaughn Watson started in place of the suspended Lovel Palmer — the bulk of the changes were made to try and reinvigorate a squad that has been on a two-month-long slide.
It provided for some interesting and anticipated combinations. Brian Ching partnered rookie Will Bruin in attack for a full 90 minutes for the first time this season. Jermaine Taylor partnered fellow Gold Cup starter Andre Hainault in defense and was flanked by Kofi Sarkodie.
“We mixed it up a little bit, and I thought we did fine,” Kinnear said about his new lineup. “You look at Brian’s contribution, and he got pulled down for a penalty and he scores a goal. I thought Je-Vaughn and Geoff [Cameron] did well. Danny [Cruz] was obvious energy. Two guys we wanted to look at were Kofi and Jermaine, and I thought they were really solid.”
Added Taylor, “Both individually and as a group, we need more chances and playing time. For me, my playing time has been limited, so when I get my chance, I have to be solid and play hard.”
Looking back on the 2-2 result, Taylor & co. look to have taken advantage of their chances. In coming back from a one-goal deficit twice against D.C., as a group Houston showed some of the grit and determination the club has sought over the past two months.
But though the comeback and cohesion of the group were positives, the lineup changes did not cure everything. Houston relinquished the opening goal again when Chris Pontius found space 24 yards out, and the second goal came on a defensive breakdown. In the attack, there were a number of missed opportunities to take the lead.
“We got a ton of balls in the box in some great areas, and we’re just unable to finish,” said Brad Davis. “Those are things that we all have to take on our shoulders individually. That’s goes for whoever’s out there: When we have a chance to score goals, we need to.”
Even so, the lineup changes have to be judged a success, as a result on the road against a team close in the standings is a positive. Moving forward, all eyes will be focused on which changes stick heading into a tough road match against Colorado on Sunday night.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.