After a season with three knee injuries, a groin injury, a hamstring injury and an extensive rehab program that relegated him to reserve action, the decorated scorer finally came through for the team that traded for him at last Christmas thinking he would come bearing gifts.
Now, nearly 12 months later, his tap-in of a loose ball after Boswell's header was spilled not only equalized the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals, but took the weight of a spoiled season off Cummings’ shoulders.
“Games like this and scoring a goal is what’s been pushing me,” Cummings said after Sunday’s draw. “It’s been very difficult physically, but also mentally. You’re not getting the playing time you’re used to even. Yes, the season’s past, but I’ve still got a lot of important goals to score for this club.”
Cummings came to Houston last winter in an attempt to add both speed and finishing to the Dynamo lineup. A preseason meniscus surgery scuttled that idea, and subsequent surgeries later in the year left Cummings a spectator or late-game fill-in down the stretch. As a second-half substitute Sunday, he filled the latter role to perfection when his team needed him most.
“I said earlier this week it would take the entire group,” said Dynamo captain Brad Davis. “The playoffs have been a time where we have had some guys step up in different situations. I hope it gives him a boost of confidence going into the next game.”
That goal epitomized Houston's comeback after the Dynamo fell behind 2-0 at home to the Red Bulls in the first half. Needing something to go their way, Houston responded in the second half, but despite getting a goal from Ricardo Clark in the 51st minute, palpable urgency remained.
Cummings, who also drew the red card that will rule Red Bulls center back Jamison Olave out of Wednesday’s match, said his goal was a direct product of that mentality.
“I think for myself and the team it’s a 'will-goal,'” Cummings said. “You need a push, you need a point. You need to go to New York at least level, if not better. That’s the kind of goal you just will in.”
After Cummings came through at the end of Sunday’s game, even Boswell's euphoric goal celebration did not bother him.
“I was pumped,” Cummings said with a smile. “Bobby got on there, and I was like, 'I’ll carry you the entire way.' I was pumped. I definitely wasn’t bothered.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.