After taking a step in the right direction last Sunday the Dynamo are aiming for a leap forward this weekend when they travel to California to take on Chivas USA.
Houston were unable to hold on to a 1-0 lead against the Portland Timbers at BBVA Compass Stadium but the performance and result represented a positive riposte to the 4-0 loss away to the New York Red Bulls four days earlier.
The Dynamo are hopeful that the solid overall showing in the 1-1 tie with the Timbers provides a platform for a breakout display against another Western Conference opponent on Saturday at StubHub Center (9:30 p.m. CT, CSN). Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear was pleased with his players' response to the heavy defeat and philosophical about collecting one point rather than three.
"I thought the mood in the locker room after the game on Sunday was pretty good. It was a tough day to play for a number of reasons: good opponent, lot of games in a short period of time with travel and it's a hot, humid day.
"I think we left some chances out there that, with a little bit of a lucky bounce, we maybe could have walked away with three points. But one was pretty good and I think they were really happy with the response they gave each other after the Wednesday game," he told reporters at Houston Sports Park this week.
"I think we've been creating chances, that's the thing," Kinnear added. "The one game really this year when we kind of fell flat in chances was [the 0-2 loss away to the New England Revolution]. The others, we've created enough chances to score some goals."
The Dynamo have eight goals in eight games so far this season—half of which came against New England on opening day. But they have taken 117 shots, the most in MLS. They are sixth in shots on target. Winger Andrew Driver believes that persistence will eventually pay off and the Dynamo will be rewarded for their pressure.
"We've just got to keep at it, to be honest. We've had a lot of chances, just not really converted many, which obviously is unlike this team, but I think we've just got to keep going. We're having a decent amount of shots, we just need that little bit of luck to get one and I'm sure once we get a couple it'll start flowing from there," he said.
Driver's role figures to become especially important with the news on Wednesday evening that his fellow wide man, Tony Cascio, has undergone reconstructive surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. The injury is expected to sideline the 24-year-old, who is on loan from the Colorado Rapids, for the rest of the season. He has made five appearances, four of them starts, in orange this term.
Forward Giles Barnes won the club's Golden Boot last season with nine league goals but is yet to find the net in 2014. The 25-year-old has come agonizingly close on several occasions—not least against Portland, when he was standing next to Will Bruin as the striker met a Brad Davis cross and placed his header beyond goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts. Bruin now has four MLS goals on the year and is already halfway to matching his 2013 tally.
"At times you've got to be a little bit more goal selfish, maybe put yourself in spots, making that extra effort. He sometimes likes to come to get the ball to feet, we've encouraged him to get in the box, where he scored the majority of his goals last year," said Kinnear of Barnes.
"He's good in the air, he's got good size, and I think the goal was good—it just misses Giles when it gets to Will. Giles was in the right spot … for him to find himself in the box more often, it's good for us and it's good for him."
Barnes said his confidence remains high and that in his view, names on the scoresheet are always much less important than the final scoreline. He said that Saturday's match represents an excellent opportunity for the Dynamo to claim their first away victory of the season before thoughts turn to three successive fixtures at BBVA Compass Stadium later in May.
Chivas have conceded 14 goals this year, tied for the most in MLS. "We need to start picking up more points on the road. I think it's a good [opportunity] with Chivas away," Barnes said.
Tom Dart is a contributing writer to HoustonDynamo.com and HoustonDashSoccer.com. Former editor and reporter for The Times of London and reporter for SI.com, Dart currently freelances for The Guardian.