With the Houston Dynamo reverting back to a 4-4-2 formation this past Saturday against New England, head coach Dominic Kinnear wanted to ensure that they still had a grip on the center of the pitch.
“They did great work,” said defender Bobby Boswell. “They are hard-working guys. After giving up three goals [against Philadelphia on Sept. 23], Dom wanted to lock down the center of the park, and that’s what we did.”
Clark and Moffat, hard-nosed players who rarely shy away from a tackle, patrolled the center of the pitch as one would expect them to and the defensive responsibilities were taken care of.
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While the defense was in understandably good hands, the pair provided a spark in the second half on the attacking side of the ball as well. Clark took charge going forward and was a handful in the second 45 minutes, making runs for his teammates to target or run off of before eventually scoring a 78th-minute winner and almost doubling up moments later.
“We asked [Clark] at halftime to get a little closer to the forwards and try and join the attack,” said Kinnear after the match. “That was a great finish. You would never know he was a holding midfielder his whole life with the finish.”
Speaking with Moffat, who has played in an advanced midfield position before while with the Columbus Crew, after Friday’s training, he was confident that the pair could get the job done all along.
“I think we did really well together,” Moffat said. “During the week, we played alongside each other and it felt good. Both of us felt like we had a good understanding of when one person goes the other one sticks. We’re both willing to get stuck in and keep the ball so it frees one of us.”
If the 4-4-2 is back to stay in Houston, the central pair did little to suggest a change. While they are not the conventional attack/defense central duo, both showed that they are well-rounded players who can do their share on both sides of the ball.
“It was a good balance in there,” Clark said. “[Moffat’s] one of those players that will have your back in midfield and balance for you, cover for you and do all the dirty work, kind of what I do most of the time. It was a good partnership and definitely helped us.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.