Nigel Brooks

Late goals "come down to determination"

The Houston Dynamo like to leave it late. So far this season, their ability to come up with late magic to get results has helped them rise to the summit of the Eastern Conference.

With Geoff Cameron’s 87th-minute winner Saturday against FC Dallas the latest example, the Dynamo have had a knack of being able to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat. In fact, Houston has scored a goal in the final 11 minutes to get a result 10 times this year, with five of those late goals earning wins.

But where does their late-game confidence come from?

“[The late] success just means we’re playing until the last whistle,” said team captain Brian Ching. “It shows the mentality of our team and the fact that we’re coming out and seeing games through.”

10 times this year, the Dynamo have earned a result through a goal in the final 11 minutes. Here is a list of the tallies:
Freeman (86'), 4/17 vs. NE (W 1-0)
Boswell (83'), 4/23 at CHI (T 1-1)
Clark (87'), 5/28 vs. FCD (T 2-2)
Ching (89'), 6/25 at DC (T 2-2)
Cameron (84'), 8/6 at PHI (T 1-1)
Boswell (90'), 8/17 at NE (T 1-1)
Dixon (93'+), 8/20 vs. RSL (W 3-2)
Carr (86'), 9/14 at CLB (T 2-2)
Bruin (79'), 9/17 vs. SJ (W 2-1)
Cameron (87'), 9/24 at FCD (W 1-0)

Seeing games through is something the Dynamo concentrate on. Houston is a team with key veterans, such as Ching, and Brad Davis, who have all seen success in Major League Soccer and know how important that killer instinct can be late in games.

Having been through the wars, the Dynamo veterans know what it takes not only to score late, but also to preserve a result. Those players, along with coach Dominic Kinnear and his staff, have fostered an environment in which each player knows what is expected.

“It comes down to determination for 90 minutes, and that’s been there all year,” Davis said. “Saturday was a good example. Against Dallas, they were tired, having played a game that Wednesday before, and our guys, we were there, and mentally we were stronger. It’s great to see, and that’s the biggest thing for us to believe we can go out and get a win.”

That determination and willingness is a big reason why the Dynamo have been able to come up with so much late-game magic. While the work ethic is commendable, Kinnear pointed out that much of Houston's success toward the end of matches comes out of necessity. With the club needing results, Kinnear’s men are willing to push numbers forward late in games to try and score goals.

Whether it is out of necessity, hard work, or confidence, the Dynamo are a team that has been able to pull things out late this year. Their willingness to work for a full 90 minutes is a trait they will count on to take them into the postseason.

“It’s not just a confidence of, ‘Oh we’re going to score late here,’ but it’s a mentality to keep going and keep pushing to have that ability to score,” Davis said. “To win a championship, you have to have that and play until the final whistle, and that’s what we try to do.”

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