What started out as an experiment has turned into a pleasant surprise for the Houston Dynamo.
Played mostly in midfield since starting his pro career in Houston in 2007, Corey Ashe is making waves at left back starting the club’s last three games. The University of North Carolina alum’s play on the back line has many thinking the shift that was meant to be temporary could become permanent.
The move of the fifth-year pro to left back was made partly out of necessity due to an injury to Jermaine Taylor – who started the season opener at center back – and to use Ashe's speed against New York’s Dane Richards at Red Bull Arena earlier this month. Taylor’s continued absence and Andre Hainault's play at center back kept the left-back spot open, and Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear decided to ride Ashe’s hot hand against both Vancouver and New England with good results.
“I think Ashe is a good defender,” said Kinnear. "We put him there as a trial against New York because of Dane Richards’s pace, and Corey had a good game there, and I didn’t feel the need to change it.”
Ashe’s success at the position is not a surprise to him or the coaches. Kinnear has played Ashe at left back briefly in the past and knew he could be successful there because of his athleticism and ability to adapt quickly. Kinnear was sure his speed would make it tough for attackers to get behind him, and his strength would match up with bigger attackers.
“He’s very calm, he’s good on the ball, and he has quickness to get out of tight situations, and so far I think he’s been playing very well back there,” Kinnear said.
In addition to his defending, Ashe's ability to add to the attack from the left back spot has helped the Dynamo create chances and played a role in the club’s success, taking seven points in three games. Much of his success has to do with his ability to combine with left midfielder Brad Davis.
“Brad’s a good player and makes it easy to attack, and playing next to Andre [Hainault] and Bobby [Boswell] is easy as well,” Ashe said. “I know how Brad likes to play, and we have good communication and a good partnership."
Ashe’s ability to cut down possession on the left side of the Dynamo defense and match opponents’ strength and speed is drawing praise from Kinnear & co. His success as a defender has the 25-year-old primed to capitalize on his chance and claim a spot in the starting lineup.
“It seems he’s a natural back there, and you wouldn’t believe it’s his first time playing the position,” said Dynamo midfielder Lovel Palmer.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.