With the Houston Dynamo needing points fast, Andre Hainault picked club over country during this week's FIFA international dates.
The Dynamo defender declined Canada national team head coach Stephen Hart's call-up for the Canucks' World Cup qualifier against Puerto Rico at Toronto's BMO Field on Tuesday, which also resulted in Hainault being left out of the Canadian squad for last Friday's 7-0 win at St. Lucia. Houston has a crucial trip to Portland on Friday that could make or break Dynamo playoff hopes, and Hainault decided his club needed him more.
“I know the last two games [of the MLS season] are important, and I didn’t want to play Tuesday in Toronto and then travel to Portland to play two days later,” Hainault said. “It was a real tough decision, one I think about a lot, but I’m happy with my decision. The last time I went away [prior to matches at Kansas City and Columbus], I came back and I was tired, so I didn’t want to do that with two games left. [Hart] wasn’t thrilled, which is understandable, and hopefully we can move past that. ... I’d like to get called up later in November.”
The Dynamo currently hold the 10th and final MLS playoff berth with 43 points, three ahead of Portland, their closest competition in the league table.
“I think he understands the position we’re in and wants to stay here as much as possible,” head coach Dominic Kinnear said. “He had a few conversations with Stephen Hart, and I know he had a desire to stay here, but he really wanted to go and represent his country as well. It was a difficult decision for him, but for him to even make that choice shows the commitment he has here.”
Hainault has been one of the Dynamo’s most consistent and effective players this season – logging the most starts among defenders with 29 and only missing one game - he was rested for the Columbus match on Sept. 14 after his last national team call-up - when not on national team duty.
“Andre’s a guy we need to have somewhere on the backline,” Kinnear said. “He was having a good season in the middle, and then it worked out to put Geoff [Cameron] back there, and I felt we could move him out right, and he’s looked comfortable out there.”
The Dynamo will need Hainault to continue looking comfortable for the next two games. Playing in the cauldron of JELD-WEN Field this season, the Timbers have gone 9-4-3, and Houston closes out the campaign against the Supporters’ Shield-winning LA Galaxy on Oct. 23.
“I like being versatile and being able to help the team,” Hainault said. “I think the big one is the next two games. That’s what everyone is working for, and we need to sort things out, and this is when we need the big performances.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.