The first half for the Houston Dynamo against Toronto FC was something out of a horror story.
Undefeated at home, the Dynamo conceded three times to a Toronto squad that had mustered just eight goals in 11 MLS contests coming into the night. Simply put, Houston was getting outworked for second and third balls and produced play that several players characterized as sloppy, prompting a call to arms from head coach Dominic Kinnear at halftime.
His message? “Play better.”
That paved the way for a second half punctuated by a Will Bruin brace and the type of quality the Dynamo are accustomed to when playing at home as they pulled out a 3-3 draw Wednesday night.
“I’m going to say we were probably playing some of the worst soccer I’ve ever seen,” Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall said. “We were uncharacteristically losing battles that we’ve won all year. At half time [Kinnear] told us ‘Don’t look at the scoreboard, go out there be men, be better. Tackle and do things that are characteristically us and the scoreboard will take care of itself.’”
Kinnear was correct. The ills that had the Dynamo behind two goals disappeared after the break, and unlike the first half where the Dynamo were searching for energy, the final half saw a renewed fight that had players putting their bodies in harm’s way and crashing the box with vigor to grab a result.
That drive, according to the Dynamo, was what turned a match that in the first half was setting up to be their worst defeat of the year.
“We said we could do one of two things, we could continue to accept this result or come out and do something about it,” Kinnear said about the halftime talk. “I think the players, each man, came out and did something about it. I think the guys for lack of a better term really wanted that second half and I think it showed.”
The reward for the turnaround was one point instead of three – not what Houston wanted, but considering the course of events it is one they will take.
“It was a good fight, good comeback but it took about 60 minutes to get going,” Bruin, who notched his seventh and eighth goal of the season, said. “He challenged us and we didn’t want to let him down. He said ‘I think everyone knows how the first half went and we can’t change it but we can change how we play the next 45 minutes’ and I think we rose to the occasion.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.