There was a look of relief on Andre Hainault’s face in the BBVA Compass Stadium press conference room on Saturday afternoon, and it wasn’t just because the Houston defender was finally out of the 90-plus degree heat.
Back in the starting XI for the first time since May 12 to fill in for defender Geoff Cameron, who is away with the US national team, and a day before leaving to join the Canadian national team, Hainault scored a marvelous, streaking header from a Brad Davis corner kick in the 57th minute to give the Houston Dynamo a 2-1 win over the LA Galaxy.
WATCH: Hainault nods inside back post
“You can’t imagine how nice it was,” Hainault told the media after the match. “It’s been a tough season so far personally. It was nice to get back in the team and help out with a goal.”
Hainault entered 2012 as the clear starter on the right side of the Dynamo defense, but found himself watching from the bench during Houston's last two matches.
While bidding his time on the bench, Hainault worked to stay sharp to make sure he would be headed back in the right direction when he got his chance. That chance came Saturday when the club needed him to step up in Cameron's absence. Hainault was more than up to the task defensively and his cracking winner – his second goal of the season – should help justify his place in Dominic Kinnear’s first team.
“His inclusion in the starting lineup was an easy decision, but his play merited it as well,” Kinnear told the press after the match. “The strongest area of depth on our team is in defense. We lost Geoff, you add Andre and, if there’s a drop, it’s not that big of a drop. Just look at it today and he got the goal.”
While the decision may have been a no-brainer for Kinnear, it was one that resulted in some much needed confidence that, based on listening to Hainault speak post-game, only scoring a game winner can give.
“He’s not been playing too much lately, but we needed someone to come in and step up and he came in, played great and got a great goal,” Adam Moffat said about his teammate. “Can’t ask much more than getting a game-winning goal. He’s been plugging away and now he’s going away with Canada. Hopefully that goes well because he’s such a hard worker.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.