Wilf Thorne/Houston Dynamo

Dynamo eye better defense down stretch

It has been an up-and-down year for the Houston Dynamo defense, and those inconsistent performances haven't been helped by different lineup combinations. With national team call-ups, injuries, and suspensions, head coach Dominic Kinnear has been forced to use eight different combinations of players on his backline this season.

With their next two games against the two teams ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings, the Dynamo will be looking to capitalize on this opportunity and move closer to a playoff berth. But to do that, they will have to build on last Sunday’s success against a quality Monterrey side as they look to regain their defensive prowess.

“I think the defense has been good,” head coach Dominic Kinnear said. “It was good to have a game against Monterrey where we know there wasn’t a threat in the second half. We were good from an organizational sense, and we came away with a shutout.”

Houston looked to be on an upswing in early July, securing shutouts against the Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC. Since that two-game stretch, the club has played eight league games without keeping a clean sheet.

The low point came in a 3-0 loss at Chivas USA on July 23. The result prompted a lineup change that saw Jermaine Taylor and Kofi Sarkodie exit with Bobby Boswell and Hunter Freeman — starters earlier in the season — reinserted. Since the change, the Dynamo have conceded just a single goal in five of their last six league contests.

“We haven’t had shutouts, but we haven’t had games where we’re leaking goals,” Freeman said. “We’re giving up one goal here or there, but we know that if we don’t give up goals, we have a good chance. When we have given up goals, it has been self-inflicted stuff. You don’t look back at it and say, ‘Man, they just broke us down.’ It’s stuff we can eliminate on our own. We’ve said it a few times that we have to eliminate the mistakes.”

Though the bend-but-don’t-break version of the defense has kept the Dynamo in games, the players understand the need to put goose eggs on the board. To do that, they are going to have to develop a stingy mentality.

“You can’t get a shutout every time out, but that’s always the intention,” Kinnear said. “We’d love to be at the point where every time you step out there, you know you can get a shutout, and I believe we have that ability.”

Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.