In the 2007 MLS Cup final, a switch to the 3-5-2 formation helped net the Houston Dynamo a second consecutive title win over the New England Revolution. Six years later, there was no silverware on the line, but a similar change helped the Dynamo claim a crucial point against the same Revs with a 1-1 draw.
Down a goal in the final 20 minutes, head coach Dominic Kinnear took a chance and shuffled his lineup. The move he made pushed players up the field in order to create more chances, and, just like it did six years ago, the move paid off.
“We had to go a little bit in search of [the game-tying goal], because if you want to get something you have to go look for it,” said head coach Dominic Kinnear. “At times during the game we were outnumbered and you’re just taking a chance putting another guy in a goal-scoring position. It’s a risk-reward move and luckily this time it rewarded us.”
The move came at just the right time for Houston. After battling New England to an hour-long stalemate, the Revs caught a second wind when talented young striker Juan Agudelo entered in the 62nd minute. Two minutes later, Houston was pulled apart for the first time and Saer Sene capitalized with a well-taken shot after catching the Dynamo’s left side out of sorts.
That goal prompted Kinnear’s move. He subbed off Warren Creavalle for Cam Weaver and moved Giles Barnes and Corey Ashe from their respective positions and into midfield. The move prodded Houston forward and clogged the midfield, making it tough for the Revs to create while adding pressure from the Dynamo.
“I thought when Cam came in he brought a spark and was able to challenge balls in the air and make it tough for the center back and create some room in the middle,” Will Bruin told MLSsoccer.com after the game. “The versatility we have on the fly is huge. It certainly helps us late in games.”
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The move paid off. In the 76th minute, three minutes after the change, Boniek García set up Bruin. The forward then delivered from inside the box to pull Houston level and claim a share of the spoils.
After Bruin’s second goal in as many games, Kinnear had his men switch back to the 4-4-2 to see the match out. However, the brief change was an effective response for a team looking to push up the standings.
“It was a good tactical change by Dom and I think it helped us push forward and get that goal,” Bruin said. “I think it shows a lot about the team with us being able to respond after giving up a goal on the road.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.