Nigel Brooks

Houston look to make set piece advantage count vs. TFC

The most exciting moments of a Houston Dynamo match are often when the ball is not moving.

So Saturday when the Dynamo host Toronto FC – a team that has proved to be vulnerable to set pieces – Houston will be looking to make the most of those situations.


Houston has built their success on overpowering teams in the air on set pieces, having scored 10 set piece goals this season – one behind MLS-leading San Jose Earthquakes. That ability will be matched against a TFC club that has conceded 11 goals from set pieces, the most in the league.

“We were able to score on a set piece against them last time and we’ve talked about some things and looked at some things,” said Brad Davis who has five of his team-high 10 assists off set pieces. “It’s a scenario we’ll look to take advantage of again.”

Houston is three days removed from putting on a master class in El Salvador on how to capitalize on their aerial advantage. In a 3-1 win over FAS to kick off their CONCACAF Champions League campaign, Houston scored all three goals, including one from Je-Vaughn Watson, through the air.

While the height and power disparity will not be as significant against TFC, Houston are a standard bearer when it comes to exploiting their opponent’s weakness on dead balls. For evidence of that advantage, of the five goals Houston has scored against the Reds three have come from headers with two from corner kicks.

“[Head coach Dominic Kinnear] tells us it’s about making two runs in the box,” said Will Bruin. “Any defender can stay with one, but it’s about taking that first step to throw them off for just that half second and then you can get body position and keep the run going.

“Crosses and re-starts are just the will of who wants it more,” the forward continued. “There’s a lot of people going for it and it’s whose hungrier and who wants to make that extra effort to rise up and finish it. A lot of guys on our team love re-starts.”

Fitness on the agenda

Two matches into a stretch of six in 19 days, fitness was the focus for the Dynamo during a toned down Friday training session as Kinnear and the players manage their health during a crucial stint.

“We rested a bunch of guys Wednesday and I think we got a great win down there,” Kinnear said. “The health of the team is good and the win gives you confidence so that helps.”

After being listed as questionable on Tuesday’s injury report with a sprained ankle, Ricardo Clark was back on the training pitch Friday and has been upgraded to probable. Joining him was midfielder Alex Dixon who went through a toned down workout after missing time with a heat illness but is still listed as out.

Not at training was defender Warren Creavalle who is listed as out on Friday’s injury report with a sprained left ankle suffered in the second half of Wednesday’s match.

Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.