As much as they’d rather stand on their own two feet, the Houston Dynamo need help.
After dropping a 3-0 result to the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, the Dynamo’s playoff fate is no longer in their own hands, meaning that they could still miss the playoffs even with a win next Sunday in D.C.
Houston headed into their final home game against the Supporters’ Shield leaders with their eyes on a result, knowing four points in two games would clinch a playoff berth. Instead, they fell to a New York team that was precise and quick in their attack and made the most of just five chances, including Tim Cahill’s goal eight seconds into the match.
Now the Dynamo will have to do something they’d prefer not to do: root for other teams.
“It sucks,” center back Bobby Boswell said. “It hurts. We know we let one slip away here, but the only thing I can say is we still have a fighting chance.
“I know this for a fact that this team is pretty good with our backs against the wall,” Boswell continued. “I’d like to stop putting our backs against the wall because you’re always worried about the what-ifs.”
Of course, the players said the right things after Sunday’s loss. They have to focus on themselves and get as much out of their game with cellar-dwelling D.C. United as possible. But they know that may not be enough by itself.
And while that’s not unfamiliar territory, it’s frustrating to be there for the second year in a row.
“All I can say is we’re going to be in a very similar situation as we were last year,” Boswell said. “I thought we kind of learned our lesson about being the last seed or a lower seed.”
Last year Houston took the long route to the MLS Cup final. They went on the road for the knockout round and were the lower seed in every remaining series. It’s a road they don’t want to travel again. The interesting thing about their predicament, though, is that they could still finish anywhere from third to fifth.
Breaking down the scenarios, a win against D.C. would mean the Dynamo would need one of the Montreal Impact, New England Revolution or Chicago Fire to fail to win in order to land in the postseason. Houston would finish third if all three failed to take three points.
A draw makes things dicey – and reliant on tiebreakers. With a point, Houston would have to score two more goals than Philadelphia should the Union defeat Sporting KC, plus the Revs would have to lose in Columbus.
None of that matters, however, if Houston doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain. Sunday may not have gone their way, but the faith is still there.
“We have a good team, obviously this game today doesn’t exactly back up my statement with balloons and streamers, but I think we have a very good team,” said head coach Dominic Kinnear. “I have confidence that we’re going to go to D.C and play and that we’re going to go to Panama [in the CONCACAF Champions League] and play well.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.