It’s become a tradition in Houston over recent years that the Dynamo finish the season strong, with appearances in the past two MLS Cups serving as the best proof possible.
Currently in fifth place in the Eastern Conference and on the edge of the playoff chase, the club looks to be on track for another late surge. Despite a 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake last weekend, Houston are 3-1-1 in their last five games and rising fast.
“Everyone’s like, ‘Oh, you guys are going to make a push,' but there’s no guarantee,” Dynamo manager Dominic Kinnear said. “Do the guys know how to approach it? Absolutely, but you can only take so much from that. You can’t say, ‘Oh, we’ve done it before so we’ll do it again.’
“The guys are focused every weekend and let’s hope we can make a late season push. We’re right there. We know we’re in a good spot.”
History, though, says the Dynamo can flip the proverbial switch. In 2011 and 2012 the Dynamo won just 49 percent of their games through June. Beginning in July, they turned it up, winning 65 percent of matches to finish the season.
“I think the last few weeks we started to show signs,” winger Andrew Driver said. “We’ve got a history of strong finishes, but there’s no point having a history in it if you don’t do it on the day. Winners win when they need to, and that’s hopefully what we’ll do.”
Why do the Dynamo find themselves in this predicament each year? Slow starts have dragged them down the last two years, but this season Houston got off to the best start in their history only to sag because of injuries, poor form and international duty this summer.
In fact, the Dynamo have four less points through 22 games than they had at the same point last year.
Still, the club remains very much in the playoff picture and if health and form go their way, the same script could eventually play out. But, the players don't believe it's a given.
“I think it’s a tough task to ask yourself to continually flip a switch late in the season,” said Calen Carr, who was instrumental in the strong finishes to both 2011 and 2012. “We’re an experienced group and we know we’re starting to enter that period of the season that decides playoff positioning. If we can get to the top of the table … it gives you a bit of an easier road [in the playoffs].”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.