It turns out the Houston Dynamo have been saving their best for last in regards to their road form.
After being tough to beat on the road but not coming up with a road win through the first six months and 15 road games of the season, the Dynamo have recorded impressive wins in their last two away matches. Friday made it back-to-back road wins for the Dynamo, with the 2-0 success over the Portland Timbers coming on the heels of a 1-0 victory over FC Dallas on Sept. 24. It is ironic, considering the lack of road victories, that the win that clinched their playoff berth came away from home.
“It was huge to win these last two on the road,” Andre Hainault told MLSsoccer.com. “We needed wins, and these last two on the road were important.”
Houston had always been difficult to beat on the road; the club's six road losses rank tied for fourth in MLS, behind only Seattle, the LA Galaxy, and New York. But the recent performances are especially important because they came against two quality teams battling for playoff spots, and Friday’s win came in one of MLS' most hostile environments at JELD-WEN Field. The late success is a good sign for a club that knows what success on the road can do for a playoff run.
“Now we’re not looking at ourselves and saying, ‘Oh, we’re a road team now,’” Hainault said. “We’re taking it one at a time. We’ll need to build on this, because we’re on a high now after winning in a tough atmosphere against a good team.”
Friday’s shutout win was just the sixth of the year for the Dynamo. A team that has struggled to keep teams off the board this year because of small mistakes came through with a strong defensive display against a Portland team that threw numbers forward as the game went on.
"It's a huge result for us; hats off to the team, the defenders especially,” said goalkeeper Tally Hall. “I felt like Portland put a lot of service into the box and whipped in good balls, and I thought our team fought very well to keep good position."
Impressively, four of those six shutouts have come on the road, including the Dallas and Portland matches.
Danny Cruz made his return to the starting lineup Friday night and repaid head coach Dominic Kinnear’s faith in him with a terrific strike in the 59th minute. On an active night for the young midfielder, the goal was the highlight, as it sealed Houston’s win.
"It was a great goal tucked inside," head coach Dominic Kinnear said. "I don't know how far out it was, but it was perfect, and I'm happy for Danny. It's definitely one of the good goals we've had this year."
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.