For the first time since his entire club moved to Houston in 2006, Brad Davis is dealing with change. The Houston Dynamo captain is still a fixture for the club, but – after so many years with Dominic Kinnear – the voice from the bench and the tactical system have changed.
After a stuttered start, Davis has found his stride under first-year manager Owen Coyle, asserting himself in Houston’s attack during the past five games, racking up a goal and three assists as Houston has worked their way back into playoff contention.
“I think there were times when I was trying to figure out our game and I wasn’t getting on the ball a whole lot,” Davis said. “[But] I think you can see the whole team now: Everybody’s picked it up and gotten better over the last couple of weeks.”
Davis, third in MLS history with 119 regular-season assists, has turned in three of his seven assists in the last five games and has assimilated to being moved to the middle and closer to forward Will Bruin. Instead of seeking space out wide to hit crosses, as he has spent most of the past 10 years, Davis has found success in 2015 by pushing his game into the box and looking for his own shot.
“Speaking with Owen and trying some different things now, I’ve been more in the middle of the park, and I think I have a good relationship with Will,” Davis said. “There was a lot of talk off the field and stuff like that. It was good to get some run of games where you’re in the middle of the park and you can find some space with the ball. I think it’s worked out pretty well. I think the partnership’s been pretty good, and I think we’ve been pretty dangerous.”
Davis broke out from his central spot in a 3-0 win over the LA Galaxy on July 25, scoring a goal and adding an assist in the victory over the defending MLS Cup champions.
“That LA game was one game that really stood out to me,” midfielder Nathan Sturgis said when asked about Davis’ hot run of form. “He was dangerous; he was good on the ball. He had an assist and a goal, and that makes a big difference. When he’s in that sort of form, he’s really good and helps us out a lot as a team.”
Earlier in the season, Davis was not consistently having those assertive moments. He struggled to create chances, going through six games in May, June and July without an assist or goal, his longest such stretch since June 2009, some 171 regular-season games. Part of the reason for his struggles was a knee injury that kept him out of two additional games during that spell and made him a casualty from the U.S. national team's Gold Cup roster.
“Yeah, whenever you’re injured and you’re not feeling 100 percent, it’s tough because you’re not out there just playing the game,” Davis said. “I was trying to get through it. When you’re out there, you’re playing but you have something that’s bothering you. You’re trying to get through it, and you can’t really do everything you want to do. It was good to finally get past that. I think it was the right thing to take that time and finally come back and not feel anything and have repercussions.”
Davis – who declined to speak about his USMNT absence – has rebounded well since recovering from injury, carrying the Dynamo attack while Giles Barnes and others were away on international duty and out injured. Now he’s back to serving up chances, turning into a playmaker from the middle of the field while tag-teaming with Bruin.
“Brad’s very conscientious and respective and knows what he’s capable of,” Coyle said. “I think particularly, I go back to the last 3-5 games, the performance levels are at such a high standard, and that’s what we want to continue, and he’s an integral part of that.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.