Since 2006, fall in Houston has been synonymous with postseason soccer.
After an up-and-down regular season, the Dynamo once again arrive in the playoffs, this time hosting the Montreal Impact in Thursday night’s Knockout Round game at BBVA Compass Stadium (7:30 p.m. CT; TICKETS).
It’s a time of year when games become more intense and the Dynamo feel right at home, regardless of how rocky their regular season was.
“The regular season doesn’t matter, it’s completely over,” goalkeeper Tally Hall said. “Everything’s thrown out the window. The pressure’s on, and that’s fun. It’s the playoffs. It’s a strange, crazy, fantastic beast.”
Head coach Dominic Kinnear’s sides have proven to be the quintessential playoff team. Houston have won an MLS-best 12 of 16 playoff series, and have managed MLS Cup appearances as the lowest seed (2012) or as a high seed (No. 2 in 2011, ’07 and ’06).
“I think in every sport the postseasons are different,” Kinnear said. “It’s completely new. I think once the playoffs start… it’s a new perspective for everybody.”
Still, the Dynamo enter the playoffs with some questions that merit attention. Will BBVA Compass Stadium be the home field advantage it was in 2013? Houston posted a 9-4-4 record at home this season, but each of the top three teams in the Eastern Conference won games there, with their possible semifinal opponent, the New York Red Bulls, winning twice.
Also, there are questions surrounding the Dynamo’s attack. The overall numbers were down his season, from 48 goals scored in 2012 to 41 this year. They’ve scored just four times in their last six games.
Despite the struggles, Houston are confident that when the time comes they will rise to the occasion.
“We know we can score goals,” said forward Will Bruin. “When they come, they’ll come in bunches. We know what we’re capable of doing. I think the attack’s going to be good. Once we start clicking on all cylinders… we’re going to be a tough team to play.”
History supports Bruin’s confidence and they will have to show it against a Montreal team that has posed problems for the Dynamo with their counter-attacking style. Montreal took the season series 2-1, although both teams held serve at home and neither team has dropped points in their building in six overall (3-3-0) meetings.
While Montreal poses a threat, time and again the Dynamo have found a way to flip the proverbial switch and make magical postseason runs. Houston is hoping to take that experience with them for this year’s run, as well.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.