Heading into Thursday night, Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear had a specific plan for how the Dynamo would line up against Real Salt Lake. Then it all blew up.
When Kinnear got to the stadium, he found out that not only was he missing the expected four players to international call-ups and two to injury, but that a flu-like illness had swept through the locker room, making the team’s gutsy performance all the more impressive.
“Coming into the locker room, we had a team in mind and what you saw running out wasn’t the same that we planned on,” Kinnear said. “We had three lineups on paper, knowing guys were sick and just in case they couldn’t make the game.
“I’m very proud to coach this team to see what they have gone through over the past few days and to come out of here with three points is very valuable for us.”
Nathan Sturgis and Brian Ownby were knocked off the roster, which ended up with just 16 of the normal 18 participants, while Brian Ching was relegated to the bench. Ironman Bobby Boswell was also under the weather, but gutted it out for 72 minutes.
Despite the injuries, illness and international absences, the Dynamo came through with a big win that was a true team effort showing their resilience and depth.
“There were a lot of guys out there struggling physically and gutting it out,” said Calen Carr, who put in some time at right back late in the match. “You just look around man to man everyone’s giving it all they’ve got. Everybody put in a hard shift and we got rewarded.”
Defense steps up
The area where the Dynamo were hit hardest by the lineup shuffle was the backline, where three contributors were missing. Ricardo Clark and Kofi Sarkodie, who made his first start of 2012, took up the defensive cause and received high marks for their play to help hold the line while also providing service going forward.
When the defese did buckle at times, goalkeeper Tally Hall, whose sterling performance helped him tie Pat Onstad’s single-season shutout mark with 11, was there to make save after save to keep a win within reach.
“[Tally] was excellent,” said Brad Davis. “You need your goalie to come up big in some games and he was excellent tonight keeping us in the game and giving us a chance to win.”
Home mark matched
With the result, Houston made it 22 straight regular-season matches unbeaten at home, tying them with the Columbus Crew for the second-longest all-time.
Carr and Kinnear to miss crucial match
It was not all positive Thursday night. Carr’s 64th-minute yellow card and Kinnear’s late ejection will mean both will miss next week’s match at Sporting Kansas City as a result of their disciplinary action in Thursday’s win.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.