Houston Dynamo defender Andre Hainault made a difficult decision last week to turn down a Canadian national team call-up to focus on his club’s playoff chase. The decision paid off Friday night, as Hainault scored a pivotal 36th-minute goal to give Houston a crucial advantage in a 2-0 win over the Portland Timbers. It’s a win that could well have booked the club’s passage to the MLS Cup Playoffs.
“There were a lot of different factors that went into that decision,” Hainault told MLSsoccer.com by phone after the win. “I am happy to score the goal, and [getting the win] reaffirms my decision to stay.”
Hainault, who was battling injuries and had missed time at training the week before the call-up, made himself available only for Canada’s match last Friday against St. Lucia, ruling himself out of this past Tuesday’s encounter with Puerto Rico. Subsequently, Canadian head coach Stephen Hart decided not to take Hainault up on his offer, giving the Dynamo defender plenty of time to rest up for the game against Portland.
“I thought about it after the game, especially with some of the comments I heard on TV when I watched the national team game, and yeah, it felt nice to be able to say, ‘Yeah, I didn’t stick around for nothing,’” Hainault said.
Houston picked up confidence after Hainault’s goal – on which Brad Davis picked up his 15th assist of the season, tying him with David Beckham for the league lead – and gained a grip on the game the Dynamo maintained maintain until the final whistle, both offensively and defensively.
Portland, which entered the game trailing the Dynamo by three points for the last playoff spot, pushed forward looking for an equalizer. However, Hainault was part of a defense that held strong to keep a clean sheet. Danny Cruz’s left-footed cracker from 30 yards out in the 59th minute put an exclamation point on the win, just Houston’s second road victory of the year.
The clean sheet - Houston's second straight in road contests - sewed up a clutch performance for Hainault and his Dynamo teammates, one that puts the club in pole position for a playoff spot coming out of the Eastern Conference.
“I don’t have any bad blood towards the national team, but I made the decision to rest some injuries, and this was a huge game for us,” Hainault said. “[Scoring] does make me feel better.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.