HOUSTON – The Houston Dynamo came back once more to a tried-and-true strategy on a humid Sunday afternoon – exploit the wings and put the Chicago Fire under pressure in the wide areas.
And as their 2-1 win – and the MLS record for a home unbeaten streak that came with it – will attest, it worked. With Will Bruin and Giles Barnes holding the ball up very well up top, Houston drove the ball down the flanks through Brad Davis and Andrew Driver, who started in place of the injured Boniek Garcia for the second straight game.
The result was two well-crafted goals where the Dynamo reminded everyone how dangerous they can be in the inside-out game.
“[Head coach Dominic Kinnear] all week has made a point that they play fairly narrow and that we can our wide guys on the ball quite a lot,” Driver (above) said. “It’s something we utilized today to make the pitch as big as possible to open them up.”
Driver was a menace, especially early. Houston funneled the ball through the Scottish winger extensively in the first half as he looked to pin Chicago left back Gonzalo Segares inside his own half. Driver sent several crosses in and while no goals came of it, the pressure helped loosen the Fire up.
What for? That came in the 26th minute.
On the other side of the field Davis spun Fire right back Wells Thompson around, getting space and putting a ball on Bruin's head for the third-year forward's second tally of the season.
“I just tried to make sure I didn’t screw it up somehow,” Bruin said. “Right when he had the ball out wide and turned that guy inside-out, we made eye-contact and it was one of those things that I know he’s going to put it on my head every time.”
Looking for a late winner, Houston went back to their advantage. Davis found space out wide and as Chicago pinched in to cover a free kick and sent a ball to the back post that breezed through the box untouched and found the net.
“It was one of those things where you try to hit the ball toward the back post,” said Davis, who admitted with a laugh he wasn’t shooting. “It’s a very difficult ball for the goalkeeper to handle. They don’t know if it’s going to get touched and if nobody touches it then it goes in.”
“We said before the game, if Will and Giles could hold the ball up and find our wide guys then we thought it would cause them problems,” added head coach Dominic Kinnear said. “Even if you don’t get goals out of it, you are still softening up the defense a bit.”
Sunday afternoon the plan worked and the Dynamo reaped the benefits, and a spot in the history books.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.