Getty Images

Kinnear hails energetic Ashe's contributions for Houston

Houston Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear does not often single out individual performances, but after Friday night’s 2-0 win over the New York Red Bulls, the Dynamo boss did just that in regard to defender Corey Ashe, showing support for the speedy left back who looks to be rounding into form.

“I don’t really give special mentions but I thought Corey Ashe was excellent tonight,” the Dynamo head man said after the important victory over their Eastern Conference rivals. “I thought defensively he was good and going forward, he was great.”

GOAL: Ashe picks up the helper

It was the second time in recent weeks that Kinnear has pointed to Ashe’s performance as a post-match positive, offering evidence of the converted midfielder’s steady improvement. While his recent contributions are a big part of Houston’s outstanding team defense over the past month, things have not always gone smoothly for Ashe in 2012. On Monday he admitted that his confidence had suffered earlier this season when he filled in for injured midfielder Brad Davis.

“I think early on I was struggling a lot,” Ashe told MLSsoccer.com. “Being put in the outside mid position when Brad was out was a little different for me. It was hard adjusting to it and even playing in the back the first couple of games, I was shaky and not really confident in myself. 

“Now I’m starting to find my stride and feel comfortable. I’ve adjusted to the 4-3-3 [formation] and I want to keep it going.” 

As his confidence rises Ashe, who has the highest completed pass rating of any defender on the club, has started to exploit some of the new perks of the formation going forward.

That confidence is showing in a number of lockdown displays on the left flank as he, like many of his teammates, has flourished in the last six weeks. Ashe has started to exploit some of the perks of his team’s new formation, which offers the outside backs ample opportunities to join the attack.

“In the 4-3-3 there’s more space and teams have to compensate for the middle, which creates a gap for me and can create a two-on-one with [Dynamo striker] Mac [Kandji] and I against a defender,” Ashe said. “Finding Mac, his movement is great moving up and down the line and I’m starting to build a good relationship with him.”

That was apparent on the game's second goal, in which the two combined to set up Calen Carr's header. It's all part of a larger collective effort, and Ashe was quick to point out that all the players on the team have improved during the Dynamo's climb to the top of the conference standings. But there is no doubt that those same teammates are seeing the same thing in him that their coach has.

“I was really impressed with him in the last game,” fellow fullback Andre Hainault said. “We work together and I was really impressed with that and I told him that after the game. I was happy for that and he’s been big for us.” 

Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.