The Houston Dynamo have been here before. A team accustomed to filling international vacancies over the years, they will once again count on its depth to fill two spots on the backline as they travel to Cascadia to face the multi-faceted Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday evening (6 pm CT, FOX Sports Houston, MultiMedios Houston).
Missing three players to international duty – Geoff Cameron (USA), Andre Hainault (Canada) and Jermaine Taylor (Jamaica) – in one position group is understandably, be a cause for concern for any team. The Dynamo are confident, however, that the players tabbed to hold down the fort are more than capable of getting the job done.
“We have a group of guys that believes in the system and believes in each other’s ability,” said veteran left midfielder Brad Davis. “We have high expectations of one another and that breeds well throughout the group and everyone buys into it. If you buy into it as a group, you’re going to have success.”
As Houston worked out Friday ahead of the trip, the emphasis was on building cohesion in their newly formed defense as a way to limit chances for the Whitecaps' stable of dangerous attackers such as Camilo, Sébastien Le Toux and Eric Hassli.
“Communication is the key,” head coach Dominic Kinnear said. “That’s why we’re out here to make sure guys are talking because we haven’t played in a little while and these guys haven’t played together as a back four as a unit. We’re coming up against guys that have a lot of movement so communication will be very important for us.”
Understanding between the Dynamo players will be especially important considering the Vancouver squad Houston will see on Sunday evening will be a very different version from the one they saw in 2011. Under first-year head coach Martin Rennie, the Whitecaps have built a stout, strong defense led by a resurgent Jay DeMerit and South Korean import Young-Pyo Lee that served notice to the league early in 2012 notching clean sheets in six of their first 12 games.
For a Dynamo attack averaging a goal per match in its last nine games away from home, Houston know breaking down DeMerit & Co. will hinge not only on communication, but on keeping their good attacking play going.
“We don’t need to change what we do a whole lot,” Davis said. “We’ve been moving the ball well and getting opportunities. We need to stay composed, move the ball and get them moving around a little bit. When we get our opportunities, we just need to score some goals.”
Adding to the Dynamo's confidence will be the news that their leading scorer has been given the all-clear to feature on Sunday. After sitting out training early in the week due to concussion symptoms from a knock suffered in Houston's friendly against Valencia, Will Bruin – who's tallied five goals so far in 2012 – was cleared to return to the training pitch Friday morning.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.