Coming into Saturday’s game at San Jose, the Houston Dynamo knew one of the big challenges would be stopping the duo of Chris Wondolowski and Steven Lenhart.
After their 1-0 shutout win over the Earthquakes at San Francisco’s AT&T Park, it was mission accomplished. And a big reason for that success falls on the play of center back pairing Bobby Boswell and Geoff Cameron. The tall defenders were matched up with the pair throughout the game, and while they gave up a few chances, Houston’s central defense held firm in helping the team secure another three road points.
“[Lenhart’s] a basher, he looks for contact and that’s pretty much it, and Wondo’s a pretty clever player, he’ll drop back and find those spots open and waiting for the flick,” Cameron told reporters after the match. “I thought they had their chances, but I thought we did pretty good defending them.”
The production is not surprising since the Dynamo anticipated that getting the ball to the forward pair around the box would be a main strategy of the Quakes coming into the match. Houston’s response was to stay out of trouble both mentally and positionally against the pesky pair. It paid off. While the San Jose pair combined for nine shots, only two tested Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall – who had five saves total on the day.
“They kept on pumping balls into the box and we just said, ‘Be honest with him’,” said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear about neutralizing Lenhart’s impact on the game. “Don’t dive in, don’t get into too tight because he likes to grab and push you around. Make sure you stay on your feet.”
Despite the strategy, Wondolowski still provided some nervy moments.
“There was one play where he got me good,” Cameron said. “Bobby went to deflect and Lenhart got a flick and I was just about to go [forward] and Wondo stuck his long leg out and just directed it the other way.
“I was caught because I was already stepping to the ball and, luckily, we put a bunch of pressure on him and he shot it wide,” the US international continued. “I was sweating there for a bit.”
Despite those flashes, the center backs’ ability to keep the dangerous forward pair off the board helped Houston produce a stifling defensive effort for their second road shutout in a row.
"I thought [Cameron and Boswell] had their hands full because [Lenhart and Wondolowski are] a good pairing,” Kinnear told MLSsoccer.com. “But our [pair] is pretty good, too.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached for comment at Darrell.A.Lovell@gmail.com.