Houston may be associated with space, but in a soccer context, it was a problem for the Dynamo on Wednesday night.
The depleted club struggled to create room in attack for a majority of the first half, and then gave up too much to D.C. United forwards Fabian Espindola and Chris Rolfe who exploited it in one-on-one battles with center back David Horst to notch their goals in a 2-0 road loss at RFK Stadium.
Espindola and Rolfe posed a serious threat to the Dynamo defense, pressuring the middle of the defense throughout the night. Overall, the struggles were part of a team that did not play at their best in the midweek clash.
“Two mistakes, you know, they punished us for them,” Corey Ashe told reporters following the game. “They came out, they were organized and they kind of set the tone and obviously [it] doesn’t help with the injury to Mark [Sherrod]. But credit to D.C., they came out, they stuck to their plan and they put their opportunities away.”
D.C. pinned Houston in their own half in for nearly two-thirds of the first half. Houston were unable to put their foot on the ball and were relegated to absorbing pressure.
If that was not enough, they lost another player, rookie forward Sherrod, just 12 minutes into the game with a left knee injury. Seeing the youngster leave the pitch in the fashion he did took its toll.
“I think mentally, Mark’s going down and getting stretchered off got to us a little bit and it took us a while to get going,” head coach Dominic Kinnear told MLSsoccer.com by phone.
His team leaves D.C. with just 15 players available for Sunday’s match versus the San Jose Earthquakes, with Brian Ownby also suspended for a late red card. The Dynamo will travel directly to San Jose for the weekend game.
While Sherrod, who Kinnear said would be sent to Houston Thursday for further evaluations, left the pitch in difficult circumstances, the club’s problems continued.
To Houston’s credit, they came out and played better in the second half. They put the pressure on United, creating a few chances along the way. But their second concession, on Espindola, was particularly tough considering it was a counter after Will Bruin got in the box but was stopped by D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid.
“I thought the response was good after halftime and we came out and kept the ball and move the ball better and created some chances,” Kinnear said. “We told the guys we’ll put a team together and go to San Jose and do something positive and let’s look forward instead of looking behind us.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.