The Houston Dynamo have earned praise over the past year for their ability to adapt and switch things up, whether that's in terms of formation or their ability to integrate more of a possession game.
After Sunday’s 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls, though, forward Will Bruin addressed the club’s finishing woes suggesting that the club has become too content to hold the ball and that they lack the killer instinct in the box.
As the club looks for the solution to unlock their attack and by extension break out of their seven-game winless streak, does the club need to once again revamp the way it attacks opponents?
“I think we’re trying to do the same things over and over again,” goalkeeper Tally Hall said. “In New York I felt like we saw the same attack from us. I think that’s the relationships where we have to say ‘OK, this is what we’re doing and how can we be different?’ Just to give the defense a different look because you can’t just do the same things over and over when the other team’s prepared for it.
“As a team we look at it and say, ‘How can we be more dangerous?’ It’s all of us. It’s the team coming together and being more cutthroat in the way we try and win games.”
Houston has focused on crossing the ball into the box in recent weeks. And although they’ve created chances – 11 shots with 25 crosses against New York alone – the tactic has not translated into goals.
A year ago at this time the club was facing many of the same questions. Houston gave up 11 goals in a four game span in early June and the goals weren’t coming. The way the club broke out of that downturn was switching to a 4-3-3 formation with the addition of Boniek Garcia. The move sparked an eight-game unbeaten streak and propelled the Dynamo to the MLS Cup final.
This season, as the club is battling through a similar streak as last season, it's not leaking goals like it did in those games. In fact, there have been long stretches where Houston has had the clear advantage in the run of play and have generated their fair share of chances.
While one can look to a lack of creativity as one reason for the team's inability to put up points, another has been a lack of execution in the final third, and on Tuesday, that was the focus of the day’s session. Like last week, head coach Dominic Kinnear drilled his troops on finishing and demanded that be better in front of goal.
“I think it’s a message,” Bobby Boswell said of Tuesday’s training. “We’re in a bad spot right now and need to get out of it. I think he’s right. I think we need a little kick in the butt. He wants us to be sharper and the better we are in practice is usually the better we are in games.”
After training Kinnear categorized the session as “business as usual.” Whether it results in a grand reinvention or just better execution, Houston knows they need to start getting the bounces and soon.
“We’re just not putting the ball in the back of the net, so we’re working on that and hopefully that happens for us on Saturday,” Kinnear said. “We had a nice chat after the [New York] game. We had our chances still … the only thing you can do is prepare for the next week and hopefully the mood in the locker room the following week is much better."
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.