HOUSTON – There’s a new weapon in MLS these days and teams have been put on the alert of late. Goals off throw-ins have become increasingly prevalent this season and the Houston Dynamo were the most recent victims on Sunday in their first-ever competitive loss at BBVA Compass Stadium.
“Now, the way teams are playing, more plays are set pieces and every team seems to have a guy now that throws the ball in the box,” Houston defender Bobby Boswell said. “I think across the league there are more teams trying to create havoc. Instead of trying to play out of it [the throw-in], teams are just putting the ball in the box.
“Sometimes you don’t realize how far you can throw a ball and the set-up for it is to bring more guys back rather than playing it straight up,” Boswell continued. “We had a meeting not too long ago that we watched video and we weren’t the sharpest on throw-ins, me included. We’ve got to be sharper on those.”
Against Sporting, Boswell got a first-hand look at the danger a throw-in can present when Aurelien Collin scored the game-winner off a Seth Sinovic throw-in to end Houston’s record home unbeaten streak.
Defending a throw-in into the box requires a whole new level of focus. And that's what makes the play so dangerous. It can catch a team off-guard or put them in a position to have to make a tough choice about how to balance their backline.
In addition to the throw-in goal vs. KC, the team was also victimized by a Chicago Fire throw-in which led to a Chris Rolfe goal in April.
Besides that, Houston’s set-piece defending has also gone through some rough patches early this season. The normally sturdy Dynamo set-piece defense has conceded three goals on dead balls in 2013 after only conceding a league-low five in all of 2012. Factor in the two throw-ins and that's five goals of 10 conceded by the Dynamo thus far (50 percent).
The goals conceded may have been costly, but the Dynamo are still off to a franchise-best start and manager Dominic Kinnear refuses to hit the panic button.
“People want to cause alarms and create negatives out of something, but I don’t see it,” Kinnear said. “I think we’ve defended [the throw-in] pretty well, just not that one. They test you. There were a lot of balls in the box and obviously it’s the winning goal.”
Added captain Brad Davis; “It’s something we talk about and look at, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s something to worry about. But without a doubt it’s something you try to tune into and be ready for because set pieces can win games and lose games. This past weekend we happened to lose on one. So without a doubt, it’s something to focus on.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.