The Houston Dynamo have shown that they can take a lead on the road. The trick now is to show that they can once again hold it down the stretch.
After opening in the season with a pair of 1-0 road wins over Chivas USA and the San Jose Earthquakes, the Dynamo have taken 1-0 leads over the Chicago Fire and Columbus Crew the last two weeks only to see them evaporate within five minutes. In both matches Houston lost the lead by putting themselves in bad situations and turning potential road wins into road draws.
“I thought we took our foot off the gas [after taking the lead], and that’s something I think we need to work on,” Dynamo captain Brian Ching told MLSsoccer.com about Saturday’s 2-2 draw with the Crew. “I think we started playing hectic and panicked. There was a loss of composure. Something we have to work on going forward is playing with the lead.”
The troubling aspect of the draws is that the equalizers have come from bad plays on Houston’s part. In Chicago, Houston gave up a dangerous free kick at the edge of the penalty box that resulted in an equalizer and against the Crew it was a series of bad plays that gave up the tying goal.
“We’ve got to tighten up,” center back Geoff Cameron told MLSsoccer.com. “We’ve been known to be hard to score on once we go up and we’ve got to get that mentality back. It’s just been mistakes, mental lapses, and they’ve cost us.”
There are a few theories on what is behind the lapses, but after talking to the Dynamo players Tuesday after training the running theme is that it's all in the head.
"You see it so many times in soccer when a team takes a lead and they sort of step off it,” Adam Moffat said “It’s not just focus but it’s mindset as well. You need to keep doing what you were beforehand but that can be easier said than done, but that’s the time when we really have to turn on.”
Turning on will be big as Houston’s remaining two games of the season-opening seven-game road trip are against D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls, Eastern Conference foes who are among the most attack-oriented in the league. If Houston want to get back to winning on the road, playing well with the lead is a must.
"To let those goals in so quick is something you never want to happen and it’s a bit disappointing,” Jermaine Taylor said following Tuesday's training session. “Now we have to look past it. We have to look at the mistakes and learn from them because we don’t want to make the same mistakes again. I think we’re working on it and hopefully this Saturday we can finish the game in a positive way.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.