Last week the new-look Houston Dynamo defense made a solid first impression with their first shutout since mid-May. Now the degree of difficulty rises with an impending away match Sunday against a stacked Seattle Sounders' attack (9:30 pm CT; ESPN2).
Seattle’s two attacking pillars, Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, both fresh off getting the start in Wednesday’s All-Star Game, lead an attack that has produced 35 goals this season, tied for second in MLS.
While Houston found some positives last week on the defensive end for the first time in nearly three months in Sunday's 1-0 shutout at BBVA Compass Stadium, the club knows that playing the Sounders in front of a packed house will pose a stiffer challenge.
“I think so,” goalkeeper and Washington native Tally Hall said when asked about taking a step up in in challenge versus Seattle. “Give D.C. credit, it was their third game in a week. I don’t think Seattle has a midweek game, so they’ll be fully rested. It’s an opportunity for us to have two good results in a row against two of the best teams in the league, and for us to move up the standings would be nice.”
To continue to build on their solid play last week, Houston will have to continue the simple things they did right.
At the head of that was applying pressure to D.C. all over the field. Also, there was a renewed positional awareness that was lacking in their eight-game winless streak that was broken against D.C.
With pressure and poise in the back, they pulled the rug from underneath what they felt like was a quality D.C. attack.
“We did well to get pressure on the ball and guys were in good positions. We had a good block, a good unit for 90 minutes,” right back Kofi Sarkodie said. “[Seattle’s] a good team and has a lot of good players going forward but so does D.C. They’ve got a good front six.”
While the talent is there, D.C. did not look the part last week, exacerbated by the absence of an injured Fabian Espindola.
That will likely not be the case at Century Link Field.
“Good individuals, that when they’re playing well, they can cause you problems out wide and in the middle,” Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear said. “You have to go in and want to play. You have to try and put them under pressure and take away a good part of the game. We’ll be defending; we understand that. It’s not easy going there and playing, but it’s always a fun challenge.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.