The Dynamo are back in action at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday aiming for a fast start and to sharpen up their shooting after last night's 2-0 defeat to the Montreal Impact.
It's been a long wait for Houston to play an MLS game in front of their own fans – the last one came on May 18 against the New England Revolution. Saturday's visitors are another Canadian club, Toronto FC (8 p.m. CT; CSN Houston, TICKETS).
The Dynamo were punished for a slow beginning and a penalty miss yesterday but recovered to put the Eastern Conference leaders under sustained pressure in the second half. Strangely, the two matches this season which have seen the most shots by the Dynamo have been defeats - to New England and Montreal. Of Houston's 18 attempts on goal in Stade Saputo, only two were on target.
Mainly thanks to good work from Andrew Driver down the left wing, Houston made 36 crosses and corners - by far the team's highest number this season. Dominic Kinnear's side also had 57 per cent of the possession. But Montreal's two first-half strikes came from the failure to track an attacking run from Felipe and a bad backpass that let Marco Di Vaio in on goal, only seconds after Houston took a corner. The Italian finished coolly for his tenth MLS goal of the season.
MATCH STATS: Dynamo at Montreal, presented by Lone Star College
"Preventable stuff," midfielder Adam Moffat told HoustonDynamo.com. "It wasn't a terrible performance. But at the end of the day it's about the result." Forward Giles Barnes missed a penalty that would have tied the score at 1-1.
"I think it’s just a bad start by us, we shot ourselves in the foot," said striker Brian Ching, who came off the bench in the second period. "Credit to them, they came out ready to play, it took us a while to get going but I thought 25 minutes into the game we started to control the game a little bit better. I think it’s just a matter of finishing, they finished their chances and we didn’t finish ours."
The Dynamo will now look for their first win since the 2-0 victory over FC Tucson in the U.S. Open Cup on May 29. Toronto have struggled this season and are ninth in the Eastern Conference, but Moffat says that the identity of Saturday's opponents is irrelevant – after a disappointing result, and especially at BBVA Compass Stadium, the Dynamo will look to bounce back by focusing on improving their own performance.
"It's a home game and we haven't won in a while, three games without winning. We want to win, we can't really look at who the opponent is. We have just got to get three points," he said.
The Dynamo were without midfielders Boniek Garcia and Brad Davis, who were on opposite sides for the U.S.'s win over Honduras on Tuesday night. But the return of Houston's first-choice back four meant that Ricardo Clark was restored to his favored central midfield role, and he was involved in some of the team's most promising attacks. With Moffat shielding the back four, Clark had license to get forward knowing there was defensive cover.
"Ricardo's got a great engine on him and got himself in some good spots. We haven't played together in the middle for a little while. It's a good balance," Moffat said.
On Saturday the Dynamo will hold a special tribute in honor of the firefighters who lost their lives battling a massive blaze in south-west Houston on May 31, including a fundraiser to benefit the 100 Club Survivors Fund and the players wearing commemorative patches on their jerseys.
Last week, several Dynamo players visited HFD Stations 51 and 68, where the four who died were based. "Those men and women risk their lives to make sure we're safe. They run into situations that most people run away from." said defender Bobby Boswell. "We went out to visit those firehouses to let them know that we're sorry for their loss and we appreciate the service they do and show that we care."
Kinnear agrees: "It's important for all sports teams to be involved in the community in very special ways and I think showing our support for those guys by wearing this patch and more importantly raising some money, going to visit them - it's not just a far away reach, it's up close and I think we have a good group of guys who understand what these people go through and what they mean to the community," the head coach said.
"We live a very privileged life so any time we can help out in any certain way, obviously through sport's the best way, I think it's very important for our team, our organization and for keeping in touch with the community."
Tom Dart is a contributing writer to HoustonDynamo.com. Former editor and reporter for The Times of London, Dart currently freelances for The Guardian and SI.com.