In a long season, clubs sometimes need a wakeup call and on June 23, the Montreal Impact delivered just that for the Houston Dynamo.
The expansion franchise handed the Dynamo a devastating 4-2 defeat, capping a tough three-game week with what is fair to say was the club’s worst showing of the season. In the match Montreal put speed and passing to good use and exploited a tired Houston squad.
Since the 4-2 loss, though, the Dynamo are undefeated, winning three of their last five and giving up just two goals in that span. While the fortunes have turned the Dynamo admitted that this weekend's rematch with Montreal (7:30 pm CT, KPRC Local 2, BUY TICKETS) has some extra incentives to turn the tables.
HIGHLIGHTS: Montreal take down Houston, 4-2
“It was not a fun game for us last time, and it was one of those bumps in the road that helped turn us around,” goalkeeper Tally Hall said. “Since that game we’ve come out with a bit of fire and sometimes you need to get thumped. I’d love to return the favor if we could because it wasn’t a good feeling and I don’t [want] to be on that side of that type of game again.”
Since the loss, Houston have made some significant changes that have paid big dividends. Switching to a 4-3-3, the Dynamo have cured the defensive ills with a midfield that is clogging lanes and a backline that is clicking while seamlessly dealing with the loss of USMNT defender Geoff Cameron.
Saturday's match is a chance for Houston to show those improvements against the team that inspired them. To do that the key will be pressure and shut down opportunities, two marquee reasons for Houston's defensive renaissance.
“We have another tough one against a team that put it on us at their house,” Bobby Boswell said about the Montreal match after Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City. “I think it’s hot as hell and I think we’re going to try and put it on them pretty bad when they come here.”
In the end, the match is much more about three points and continuing to move up the standings. But from speaking with the club, there is no question Houston are looking to show that the team that lost at Stade Saputo a month ago is no longer around.
“Every year it’s the same thing where we start slow and then in the middle of the season people say ‘Hey, here comes the Dynamo,’” defender Corey Ashe said. “Tomorrow’s going to be a battle and we need to let them know, one, that this is our house and two that what happened in Montreal won’t happen again.
"I think we’re focused on the three points more than the revenge factor, but this is a game we wouldn’t mind putting a few goals in the back of the net.”
After missing the last two matches with a groin injury, Adam Moffat told the media after training he was not sure of his availability ahead of Saturday’s match.
“It’s still there a little bit but it’s been much better and we’ll have to see how it goes the next day or so,” Moffat said. “It’s frustrating when you miss games but you have to be upbeat about it. This is the fun time of the season … but you’ve got to be sensible because it’s a long season and they're a lot of games left.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.