Tally Hall believes that every Dynamo player needs to re-examine his role and ask himself what he can change as the team bids to break out of its downturn with a home win this weekend.
"As a goalkeeper my mentality has always been, how can I help the team, other players, to look good?" he said after an intense training session on Tuesday.
"All the way around, that's what we need to do. How can we provide better service? How can I get the defenders or midfielders involved personally so they can be more dangerous in attack? It's all of us, it's not just the forwards not scoring goals, it's the team coming together and being more cut-throat in the way we attack and try to win games."
The Dynamo are aiming to end a tough stretch of results with three points against the Philadelphia Union at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday (8 p.m. CT, TICKETS). It's a big game against opponents who have emerged in recent weeks as genuine playoff contenders.
Last Sunday's 2-0 road defeat to the New York Red Bulls made it seven successive MLS games without a win for the Dynamo, whose last success was a 4-0 victory over D.C. United on May 8. The team has scored only twice in that spell, which has featured three draws and four defeats. Yet it has enjoyed plenty of possession and created good chances in most matches.
That was true at Red Bull Arena, where the Dynamo edged possession overall, had 25 crosses from open play and forced six corners. But they were unable to make those chances count and Fabian Espindola snuck behind the defense to give New York the lead on the hour. As the visitors pushed for a late equalizer, Jonny Steele ended the contest with a fiercely-struck second goal in the 88th minute.
The pattern of play and the feeling of disappointment was all too familiar. The lack of end product means small things are making a big difference and turning a blip into a streak.
"I think this team's capable of winning a lot of these games that we're tying and losing... It comes down to just being better. We were in the game, I thought we had pretty good spells there, and one goal changed the whole dynamic of the game. It could have been easily prevented I think with a little more organization and realization of what was going on," defender Bobby Boswell told HoustonDynamo.com.
"At the same time we also have to score goals too, we need to finish our chances. I think we had a ton of crosses in that game, we just couldn't get on the end of any; credit to them for getting the result... I think we knew they were going to come at us. I thought we weathered it all right in the first half. Second half, we started to try and push to get a goal and gave up one in the process."
The self-analysis will not help unless the team can rediscover its ruthless streak. "I think we have to show a little different side of our attack and at the same time be killers. We still had chances and we've got to put those away," Hall said.
"As a team we look at it and say, how can we be more dangerous? And if the forwards say 'hey, we need a quicker ball into us' then the rest of the team has a responsibility to say, 'all right, that's what they need to succeed, it's our job to provide that service to them to let them succeed'."
The Dynamo have slipped to fifth in the Eastern Conference, two places beneath Saturday's opponents. But a win at BBVA Compass Stadium will see Dominic Kinnear's team go level on points with the Union.
"Now that we have the next game at home, this is a game where we need to make a big impression and come away with three points. They're a team that's competing in the East now, that becomes a very important opponent to beat," said Hall, who is up for MLS Save of the Week for a double-stop late in Sunday's match.
"It's fortunate for us that we've had a bit of a slide and yet we're still in a spot where if we get some wins then we're right back up on the leaderboard. We look at it as an opportunity. It's unfortunate we've had a couple of bad months but in the months ahead of us we have an opportunity to do something, to make a push, and we're optimistic about what we can do in the league standings."
Like Hall, Boswell is in no doubt that Saturday's match is significant: "Any time you play conference opponents it's like a six-point game because if you go out and win you've eliminated three points from them and also gained three points. And vice versa. It's definitely a good test. I think Philly's had some good games this year and played well. We've got to make sure we come out and are ready."
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.