It is a rarity in MLS that teams play home-and-home games in back-to-back weeks. As the Houston Dynamo prepare for that rarity against Toronto FC, the club can look back on a first-hand lesson at what mistakes can mean when made against the Reds.
Houston was punished last weekend for poor passes, missteps and sacrificing their shape. As the stage shifts to BBVA Compass Stadium, they know that if they give TFC the same chances, the results will not change.
“They have a lot of speed and are a team that likes to break and counter-attack,” said left back Corey Ashe. The defender missed last week’s game due to a knee injury but the club expects him to be available for Saturday’s rematch. “It’s an experienced team and a team that waits for you to make mistakes and they pounce on them. We just have to be smart and take care of the ball and our defensive shape is going to be really important.”
Seeing Toronto make Houston pay for their mistakes was a sign of the quality the club has. Toronto will concede possession at times, the Dynamo controlled the ball and created chances. That will be important again Saturday, but the possession will have to come without mistakes.
Led by surgical striker Jermain Defoe, TFC's ability to strike quick and not waste chances stood out.
“He’s a typical EPL striker,” Ashe said of Defoe, who scored two second half goals last week. “You give him half a step and that’s all he needs.”
“You’ve got to be prepared for the worst case situation at all times and I don’t think we were,” said midfielder Andrew Driver. “We’ve addressed it and we’ve got to cut that out. It’s just the way football is, you’ve got to think the worst can happen at any point.”
With Michael Bradley likely to return this week things will not get easier. Minimizing the mistakes, something the Dynamo have struggled with throughout the season, will be magnified as well as trying once again to cut off the supply lines to Defoe up top.
Those are lessons the club will need to learn if they want to reverse the score line at home.
It’s a narrative the team’s dealt with the entire season. It's a topic they have grown tired of talking about and are ready to put in the past. They will get that chance against TFC to at least rectify some of those issues. If not, the discussion will likely remain the same.
“There’s obviously a bad taste in our mouths from the way things went,” goalkeeper Tally Hall said. “We’re chomping at the bit to play because we wanted to win that game and now we have an opportunity on Saturday.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.