After registering just two shutouts in their first 17 games, the Houston Dynamo are starting to find their defensive presence.
In the past two weeks, the Dynamo have matched their season total for shutouts by keeping Colorado scoreless July 3 and blanking Toronto FC last Saturday. The consecutive shutouts are the club's first in MLS play since a string of three consecutive clean sheets from May 30-June 10, 2009. After going seven games without a shutout before this, the recent form of the defense is a welcome change.
“It’s always good when you get no goals against,” said Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear after Saturday’s 2-0 win over TFC. “We made a few mistakes, but we covered up for it. Tally [Hall] gave a lot of credit to his back four for making his job easier than it had to be.”
Hall put in very different shifts in the back-to-back shutouts. The 6-foot-4 goalkeeper was credited with six saves in Houston’s draw in Colorado and was constantly under siege by a high-pressure Colorado attack.
In stark contrast to that performance, on Saturday night the Dynamo netminder saw his back line control the few attacking forays that Toronto made into Houston’s defensive third. The defense’s play resulted in Hall not having to make a save. While the back four was able to defend and recover to preserve the shutout in Colorado, against TFC the clean sheet was achieved through organization and a back four that was solid in distribution.
“[The defense] starts our possession,” said midfielder Geoff Cameron, who scored his third goal of the season in the 81st minute to seal the win. “With them possessing it and swinging it left to right, it sets the standard.”
On their own, the two performances may not stand out. It’s easy to nitpick at the amount of shots Colorado took or attribute Saturday’s result to TFC not coming out of its defensive shell often. However, when examined together, the play of Hall and his back four instill confidence that the current group is starting to figure things out. With this back line having played just three matches together, the hopes for continued defensive success are high.
“It’s back-to-back shutouts, which is the goal," added Kinnear after the TFC win. "[Hall] didn’t have to make a save tonight, and the guys in front of him did a pretty good job defending.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.