The underdog role is one that many teams will try and tag themselves with at this time of year. Whether for motivation or another reason, it is a moniker that is used quite a bit. However, it is a moniker that does not fit the Houston Dynamo.
With a track record of playoff success including two MLS Cups, four conference championships in just eight years, the Dynamo are the anti-underdog. In fact, regardless of where they start the playoffs, the common conception is that they will finish when it matters most.
So as the club heads into Sporting Park to face Sporting Kansas City in the second leg of the Eastern Conference Final tied at 0-0, a team they have knocked out of the playoffs the past two seasons, you will not hear them claim the underdog role.
“I don’t think Kansas City looks at us as an underdog,” said center back Bobby Boswell. “The way this team has played in the playoffs since coming to Houston, not many people would consider it an underdog ever. It’s not a role we’ve embraced. We just want to go out and get a ‘W’ and bring a trophy back for the fans.”
While Boswell will not cop to the underdog role, he has been adamant that the team plays best with its back against the wall, and history supports that.
Houston’s situation is one that the team overcame just last year when it was the lowest seed to qualify and made a run to MLS Cup. Last year the Dynamo were one of three teams that won six series as the lower seed. The Dynamo did it three times alone.
This year the Dynamo came into the playoffs in a similar situation. The number four seed, the Dynamo dispatched the Montreal Impact in the Knockout Round game at home before being the lower seed against Supporter Shield winners New York Red Bulls.
Despite the points advantage, it was RBNY head coach Mike Petke who proclaimed his team the underdog. It turns out that the New York boss was right. Houston took care of the Red Bulls 4-3 with an extra time winner from Omar Cummings.
“It’s so weird because we’ve been one of the last teams to make the playoffs, so points-wise we’re underdogs, but we have kind of a little chip on our shoulders,” said goalkeeper Tally Hall. “We’ve gotten a reputation for being really good in the playoffs so we’ve been the underdogs but teams expect us to win as underdogs.”
Now the Dynamo head into a return leg with a motivated Kansas City squad that is looking to finally best the team that has knocked them out of the playoffs the previous two years.
“They might say it, we might say it, it’s kind of a mental game,” said right back Kofi Sarkodie. “It’s just going to be a grind.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.