After a barren six weeks for results and goals, getting a point and scoring twice can feel good for a club. Giving up two goals, however, will put a damper on that excitement.
That’s the case for the Houston Dynamo after they came from behind to save a 2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls on Friday night. An improved offensive performance that saw them score twice after being shut out in the previous five games was certainly a good sign.
But giving up two on issues that players have repeatedly talked about fixing threw cold water on some of that positivity.
“The game’s won in the box on both sides of the pitch, defending and attacking,” right back Kofi Sarkodie said after the game. “If we finish in the final third and we defend in our final third, then we win matches. [Friday] I think we showed some characteristics of scoring in their final third, and we’ve got to continue to do a better job at box defending.”
Doing that defensive work was a challenge going in, as Sarkodie was without his other three regular starters. David Horst was on the bench as he continues to return from a groin injury, and Corey Ashe (knee effusion) and Jermaine Taylor (hip contusion) were injury scratches. Starting in their place were Eric Brunner and rookie AJ Cochran at center back and the versatile Warren Creavalle at left back.
The new blood had the same old problems, as tracking runners in the box and applying constant pressure to passers and ball-handlers has been a recent focus for the Dynamo. Those issues have played a major role in Houston allowing 15 goals in the six games since their last MLS win, and the latest two came from the all-too-familiar Bradley Wright-Phillips.
The Englishman has been a bane to Houston since arriving in MLS last summer, producing seven goals in six games against the club. After scoring in the playoffs against Houston last year, Wright-Phillips hit for a hat trick in New Jersey on April 17 and followed that up by scoring first with speed then with a pinpoint header later to put Houston in trouble.
“I think we gave him a little too much room on both goals,” head coach Dominic Kinnear said after the game. “He created those with good movement in the box, a good run over the time. Sometimes service and good movement causes you problems, and he took advantage of that tonight.”
Those concessions had Houston smarting a bit after the result. Players know that while the point earned was an improvement, to truly get things going in the right direction, those types of mistakes have to go away, and the Dynamo need to start picking up wins.
“As a team, we’ve got to look at what happened … We’ve got to address what let the goals in,” said midfielder Andrew Driver. “It’s about improving every week and every week cutting out the goals. We’ve still got to be critical to ourselves, because we’ve got to keep improving, got to start winning. We can’t sweep it under the carpet. It’s got to be out there, and we’ve got to correct it.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.