The Houston Dynamo are riding a wave of momentum as strong as any team in MLS into the playoffs, but Dominic Kinnear has been through this enough to know it simply might not matter.
The Houston head coach on Wednesday did not necessarily negate the team’s recent success (they finished 7-2-4 and 6-0-2 down the stretch to earn the second seed in the Eastern Conference), but he is more than aware that the Dynamo face a tough challenge in the first leg of the conference semifinals against third-seeded Philadelphia Union and coaching counterpart Peter Nowak, beginning on Sunday on the road.
“I don’t think [momentum] matters a whole lot,” Kinnear said via conference call. “At this point, both teams are confident. I’m sure Peter will have his guys ready to play. Going into the playoffs everyone says, ‘It’s a second season, where everyone has a new chance,’ and I think both teams are focused to play well, whether they’ve been winning or losing before the playoffs start.”
Going into Sunday’s game against the Union - against whom Houston went 0-1-1 during the regular season – the Dynamo will be concerned with what lies ahead and handling the pressure that comes along with playoff soccer, rather than what they did to finish the season.
That is an area in which the Dynamo coach believes his players can draw from their recent experience. Houston has seemingly been fighting for its playoff life since the beginning of August in a turbulent Eastern Conference race.
“This team, the last five or six games, has been under a lot of pressure,” Kinnear said. “I know for sure the last four or five, because the teams were so close together. One game we’d be top of the conference, and then we’d be fourth or fifth after the weekend was over. We’ve played catch-up quite a bit this year, and the last five or six have been a test for this group, home or away, and I think we’ve handled it well.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.