The Dynamo are two-thirds of the way to a perfect week.
LA beaten at the Home Depot Center? Check. D.C. United thrashed at RFK Stadium? Done. Now all Dominic Kinnear’s team needs to round off their three-game, eight-day odyssey in the ultimate style is the small matter of defeating title rival Sporting Kansas City at BBVA Compass Stadium on Sunday (Click here to secure your seats).
A very good start to 2013 soared to a new level this week, as the Dynamo answered talk of their road struggles with a win last Sunday at the home of MLS’ reigning champions and then crossed the country to perform an efficient demolition job yesterday on last year’s Eastern Conference finalists.
Kansas City would not be anyone’s first choice to face on short rest after such a taxing itinerary. They were the East’s best team in last year’s regular season and have started this campaign strongly. But if Houston’s legs are inevitably weary after three long flights spanning 5,000 miles, minds should be feeling fresh. And the self-belief gained from two stunning victories will act like an adrenalin shot.
“With the performances [against D.C.] and in LA, in these past two games we grew as a team. Five goals over two matches in a short space of time, and two shutouts,” Dynamo defender Kofi Sarkodie told HoustonDynamo.com.
The right back had a huge role in holding D.C. United scoreless in the 4-0 win, making two dramatic goalline clearances in quick succession in the 62nd minute. Sarkodie’s heroics came after he was nominated for MLS Save of the Week for a header against the Colorado Rapids on April 28 that denied Danny Mwanga a certain goal
The 22-year-old can surely expect another nomination, and perhaps a win this time, after helping out Tally Hall once more with a double stop. “I wanted to make sure this week is unbeatable,” he joked. “I guess I’m the second goalie now.”
Sarkodie believes that after the eye-catching 1-0 victory over L.A. - the club that defeated Houston twice in the past two MLS Cup finals – it helped the Dynamo that they met United only three days later.
“I think so. The win in L.A. was our first road win and we carried the momentum forward,” he said.
Despite record-breaking home form, until beating the Galaxy, Houston had not won away from BBVA Compass Stadium in the MLS regular season since last July.
Victory over D.C. was achieved through a solid team effort and a stand-out performance from striker Will Bruin, who contributed two goals and two assists. British duo Giles Barnes and Andrew Driver, who scored the winner against the Galaxy, also found the net.
Bruin now has nine goals in nine fixtures against D.C., though he can’t pinpoint a precise reason why he is so effective versus the club.
“I don’t even know – I’m confident against them, I scored my first professional [hat-trick, in 2011] against them,” he offered.
Barnes went off with an apparent hamstring injury in the first half and is a doubt to face Kansas City, but Bruin paired effectively with his replacement, Brian Ching. The veteran provided a flick-on that led to Bruin’s second goal in RFK and he has no concerns if the strikers are again deployed together on Sunday.
“Brian and I have forged a good understanding in the last two years. He knows what I want to do, I know what he likes to do,” Bruin said.
Missing injured midfielder Ricardo Clark, the Dynamo were assertive early against an out-of-form D.C and grabbed two first-half goals. The visitors stood firm when D.C. had a strong spell of pressure in the second period, then put gloss on the scoreline with two opportunistic late finishes.
“We’d been unlucky so far this year [in away matches]… That was a complete, full, 90-minute game. To grind it out, that gives us confidence,” said Bruin. “We battled to the last whistle. It’s another short turnaround [but] we have huge confidence going into the game on Sunday… [the travel was] as tough as you can get, going cross-country.”
The results of the Dynamo’s epic road-trip cannot only be measured in miles traveled and points gained. What had seemed a daunting task has offered proof of the team’s vast potential and provided a boost to morale that should count against Kansas City and beyond.
Tom Dart is a contributing writer to HoustonDynamo.com. Former editor and reporter for The Times of London, Dart currently freelances for The Guardian and SI.com.