Brad Davis’ performance for the U.S. against Azerbaijan on Tuesday wowed plenty of people - including the man tasked with stepping into the Dynamo captain’s shoes.
“I thought he was phenomenal,” Servando Carrasco told reporters at Houston Sports Park, the day after Davis’ influential display as a second-half substitute in a 2-0 World Cup warm-up victory in San Francisco.
“I thought he came off the bench and did exactly what was asked of him. He had probably three or four good chances to create goals and that’s what you want,” the midfielder added. “He comes in when it’s 0-0, he puts in a great ball off a corner kick, he puts in a great ball off a run of play, and I think the first goal was his initial cross, the second goal was a perfect ball to the near post. That’s what he does, that’s what we expect him to do once the World Cup comes along.”
Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear echoed Carrasco’s admiration for Davis, who will be on the plane to Brazil after being named last week in Jurgen Kliinsmann’s 23-man squad. The 32-year-old’s corner dropped perfectly for Aron Johansson to make it 2-0 in the 81st minute.
“I thought Brad was really good. His delivery on set pieces, we see it every day but it’s nice to see him do it at the international level. Especially, the corner kick was fantastic; he didn’t lose the ball, he moved well, I thought he was a good addition to the team,” said Kinnear.
It wasn’t only Davis’s Houston co-workers who were impressed. He was named man of the match by Brian Sciaretta of The New York Times, who wrote: “in addition to his set pieces, he enjoyed a strong overall outing, completed a high percentage of his passes and had a legitimate claim for a penalty denied early in the second half. He built a case to see significant minutes in Brazil.”
Carrasco, meanwhile, is staking his claim to see substantial time for the Dynamo in the absence of Davis and the injured Ricardo Clark. The 25-year-old made only three substitute appearances in the MLS regular season last year after he arrived in a trade with the Seattle Sounders but has already featured nine times in 2014, starting four of the past six matches.
With Buck Shaw Stadium just a short drive from the U.S. training camp in Palo Alto, California, Davis watched Sunday’s defeat to the San Jose Earthquakes from the stands then visited the locker room afterwards.
Carrasco assumed delivery duties, sending over four crosses and taking both Dynamo corners. One of the team’s best passers, he says he is comfortable taking set pieces, if perhaps a little rusty. “I feel good, it’s a role that I guess I haven’t done in a very long time so it’s just getting back to it, getting back to that certain technique,” he said.
“It’s just like muscle memory, I think Brad Davis will tell you that—once you get a technique it’s just repetition and repetition. He’s got probably the best left foot in the league; I’m just trying to put the ball in dangerous places and that’s about it.”
The Dynamo began strongly against the Earthquakes—and had more shots on target than their opponents over the 90 minutes—but could not take advantage of their early pressure before defensive mistakes contributed to a 3-0 loss.
“In the first 35 minutes we created about three or four good goal opportunities and if you score those goals, things change,” Carrasco said.
After the losses to D.C. United and San Jose, Houston are on the road for the third successive match on Sunday when they face the Colorado Rapids (7 p.m. CT, CSN). The Dynamo presently sit fourth in the Eastern Conference standings, having played more games than the teams above them.
“I think there’s a sense of urgency but it’s not like we’re pressing the panic button by any means. Practice today was pretty tough, guys are back at it, working hard and focused on the game on Sunday,” Carrasco said. No doubt the same goes for the Davis and the rest of the U.S. roster, who meet Turkey at Red Bull Arena on Sunday a few hours before the Dynamo kick off.
Tom Dart is a contributing writer to HoustonDynamo.com and HoustonDashSoccer.com. Former editor and reporter for The Times of London and reporter for SI.com, Dart currently freelances for The Guardian.