After Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Toronto FC, it is clear something is different with the Houston Dynamo.
For the second home match in a row, the Dynamo played without the type of smothering, high-pressure brand of soccer that brought them to prominence in the month of July. Instead, it has been two matches played at a different pace, and that has tripped Houston up for the second week in a row.
“I think it’s a mental thing because we definitely have the personnel to win this game,” defender Andre Hainault said after the match. “It’s a mental thing that we’ve got to sort out because it was not good enough tonight.”
The Dynamo remain three points out of second place in the Eastern Conference, the spot that would guarantee home field advantage if they were to advance to the conference semifinals.
“We’ve got to start getting wins because we can’t coast to the playoffs,” Hainault said. “We’re not going to make it with that mentality.”
HIGHLIGHTS: HOU vs TOR
Bruin gets monkey off his back
A positive from Saturday’s draw was Will Bruin’s return to the scoring column. The 6-foot-2 forward’s 21st-minute chip was his 11th goal of the season, and first in seven matches.
“It’s like getting the first one of the year,” Bruin said. “It’s kinda like getting the weight off your shoulders and to play more freely.”
Clark makes first start
Ricardo Clark featured in the starting lineup for the first time since returning to Houston against TFC and played a role in the Dynamo’s only goal. The midfielder said he was happy with his shift, which ended in the 77th minute due to cramps, but it was unfulfilling.
“It was my first start in the new stadium, so I’m thankful for that. I just wanted to contribute as much as possible,” Clark said. “I thought the tie was decent, but we may have let three points slip away.”
Thoughts on CONCACAF
Houston made 10 changes to their starting lineup Saturday night following their Wednesday win in the CONCACAF Champions League over Salvadoran side CD FAS, with Bobby Boswell the only returning starter.
When asked about his priorities regarding balancing MLS and CONCACAF play, Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear aligned himself with his cohort in LA, Bruce Arena, who characterized the tournament as a “circus” and questioned the attention paid to it by MLS teams after his club’s 5-2 win over Isidro Metapan.
“They’re both my priority,” the Dynamo boss said. “My objective from day one is to win MLS Cup, but don’t take anything away from that. Some people see it differently, but I echo what Bruce Arena said about CONCACAF. He made some quotes about CONCACAF the other day and I 100-percent agree with him.”
Houston return to CONCACAF play Thursday when they travel to Honduras to face domestic champion Olimpia before returning to MLS play at Toyota Park against the fourth-place Chicago Fire on Sunday.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.