If confidence for a striker is synonymous with success, then Mac Kandji is ready to go on a tear.
The first-year Houston Dynamo forward has taken to his role as a late game spark plug and strung together several strong performances in a row, punctuated by scoring the lone goal in his club’s 3-1 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday. Speaking with MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday, the striker admitted that putting the scoreless drought behind him has helped boost his already resurgent confidence.
“The confidence has always been there every time I step on the field,” Kandji said. “I couldn’t enjoy it much because of the loss but … it’s always good to score goals and it’s definitely some pressure off my shoulders. Coming back from the injury to get my feet back, coming here, [head coach Dominic Kinnear] worked me into the team to get me used to the guys. He knows what type of player I am and he’s confident in me and I appreciate that.”
Kinnear has turned to the striker to provide a lift to the attack late in games, especially when the club is pushing for a goal. Kandji rewarded the Dynamo boss with a goal that, at least temporarily, put Houston back in the match Sunday night. The outing showed Kinnear more of what he wants to see.
“We tell him that when he’s in the box is when he’s going to score goals,” Kinnear said. “If you look at his chances, the one he scored and the one where [Vancouver goalkeeper] Joe Cannon pulled off a great save … he was 10 or 12 yards from goal and inside the post. That’s what he needs to do to be an effective forward.”
Creavalle ready to keep working
One player who looked surprisingly comfortable on the field Sunday night was rookie right back Warren Creavalle. The first-year pro made a positive debut, with Kinnear crediting his performance to the work the rookie puts in on the training pitch.
“Every day you have to come out here and grind and push hard and try and make your way into the starting XI and make the guys in the starting XI fight to hold on to that spot,” the rookie said. “Out here that’s what I’m really trying to do.”
More minutes up for grabs
While the Dynamo are prepared to welcome back four internationals into the fold – Jamaicans Je-Vaughn Watson and Jermaine Taylor, Canadian Andre Hainault and US international Geoff Cameron – there will still be some roster shuffling as Houston prepare to navigate three matches in eight days next week.
“This week coming up, we play Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday with two games at home here and it’s important to keep the team fresh,” Kinnear said. “So you go with it and try and put your best team on the field for that day.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.