It wasn’t pretty, it won’t go down as an instant classic, but in the end the Houston Dynamo got exactly what they needed.
Coming off a bad run of form that had them winless in four MLS games, Houston notched a scrappy 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Union. To do it, they used an old, but trusted formula: grab a set piece goal, play good defense and most of all, stick together.
On this night, against a struggling Union team, it was enough to push Houston to a crucial road victory and to fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
“Things haven’t been going the way we wanted, but we had a talk this week about how we need to stay together and stay as a unit,” Brad Davis, who notched his 99th career assist on the winning goal, said. “Tonight was a perfect example of that, grinding out a win.”
Houston was certainly in need of a gritty performance coming into the game after weeks of falling short and a couple embarrassing losses. While the Dynamo had some bounces go their way – including a waved-off Keon Daniel free kick goal in the first half – the club got just that.
“What we’ve been looking for is competing on every play, not taking any plays off and doing whatever it took to win the game,” assistant coach Wade Barrett, who spoke in place of the suspended Dominic Kinnear, told MLSsoccer.com by phone. “Didn’t really care how it happened…at the end of the day they competed until the very end and got the three points.”
At the core of that performance was Ricardo Clark and a stingy defense. Clark scored the Dynamo’s winner in his first start since August 17 on a play that has been absent from Houston’s repertoire since May 8. Clark earned a free kick 40 yards from goal in the 53rd minute and Davis lobbed it into the box, setting Clark up for a hard-fought header that went in for the winner.
After the go-ahead goal, the game was all about keeping the Union off the board. In the past four weeks, Houston has struggled in this area; but on Saturday night they kept the defense tight and held onto to their first shutout since July 6, when they blanked this same Union squad 1-0.
“It was one of those nights where the game, wasn’t perfect, but you have 10 other guys watching your back and that’s what a team effort is,” said goalkeeper Tally Hall. “We definitely took a couple of punches the last couple of weeks. It’s about how you respond, and I think we responded very well to the situation when we needed to.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.