Coming into the conference playoff series, the book on the Houston Dynamo read pretty clearly: Limit set pieces.
After Houston pulled off a 3-1 aggregate win over the Philadelphia Union, including victories in both legs, it is clear that is easier to read the book than to understand it. Two of the Dynamo’s three goals came off set pieces, both struck by Brad Davis. In addition to the goals the Dynamo were dominant in the air at both ends of the field, winning a large portion of the aerial battles.
Playing into the Dynamo’s hands was the physical nature of the series, which featured 46 fouls — 26 of which whistled on the Union. Add in nine Dynamo corner kicks, and Houston had all the ammunition it needed to exploit a most dangerous weapon. In first-half stoppage time of the second leg on Thursday night, the Dynamo took advantage when Davis’ curling free kick found the charging Brian Ching, who headed home the winner.
“It all comes down to delivery,” said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear. “If you don’t have a guy who can deliver the ball, you’ll get nowhere. The delivery from Brad was excellent, and Brian got a good run into the box, and there were other times where we looked pretty dangerous too."
“[The media] have talked about it, and other teams keep saying it, but I keep saying we’re going to get our chances every game, and we look to capitalize on them,” said Davis, who has produced 9 of his 18 overall assists on set pieces. “Tonight, we did it again.”
In Sunday’’s looming showdown with Sporting Kansas City in the Eastern Conference championship game, the Dynamo will once again be on the prowl — Houston’s only goal this year against Sporting KC came from Davis on a set piece (this one a shot) in their 1-1 draw in Houston on July 16.
“I think we’ve been successful all year on them, and in the past we’ve been the same way,” said Boswell, who has scored four of his five goals off set pieces this year. “It’s our bread and butter. It’s hard to mark everyone. It’s been working for us. Why change it if it’s working?”
Hear from Brad Davis about the match: