It had been 12 games since the Houston Dynamo pitched a shutout. The defense that started the season hot had cooled off and found it tough to keep teams from hitting the back of the net, many times with Houston having a hand in their opponent’s success.
But on Friday night against former head coach Dominic Kinnear’s San Jose Earthquakes they found the magic touch in the back to notch a 2-0 road win at Avaya Stadium.
Despite the Earthquakes having several chances and a majority of possession in the second half, Houston cut out chances with a strong back line, and some help from the woodwork. As a result, Houston found a zero on the right side of the ledger for the first time since April 11.
“We needed to get back to being difficult in respect to not giving up goals through individual errors,” head coach Owen Coyle told MLSsoccer.com in a phone interview after the game. “There’s not, when I look back at the games, there’s nobody that’s really cutting us wide open … its self-inflicted errors. We scored two goals tonight and kept a clean sheet … we played very, very well against a good San Jose side.”
Houston saw a 1-0 lead evaporate in the second half last week when the Chicago Fire’s Patrick Nyarko beat the defense to a loose ball. Despite San Jose’s best effort that moment didn’t come on Friday.
Led by strong performances from Raúl Rodríguez and DaMarcus Beasley, San Jose found few clear-cut chances from the run of play outside of shots from distance. Their best chance came in the first half when Victor Bernardez rattled the frame off an indirect free kick.
Still, Houston kept San Jose in front of them for the most part and were in the right spots at the right time to keep the clean sheet for just their second road win of the season.
“Locking it down defensively, especially in the midfield and the center backs, was key for us,” Ricardo Clark, who opened the scoring with a 10th minute header, told the media after the game. “When you do that, they’re chasing the game and you’re going to get opportunities on the counter attack.”
It was not all on the defense, especially early. Houston’s attack was sharp in the first half and carved up San Jose with a slew of chances, including Clark’s header. Playing with a lead helped as Houston were able to repel the Earthquakes.
While the second half brought more long balls than quality play on the ground, Houston iced the game when Will Bruin and Leonel Miranda punished a gaffe by Sanna Nyassi to ice the game in the 81st minute.
“The combination play was brilliant,” Coyle said. “Again, when we pass and move the ball well consistently – and that word keeps cropping up – we’ve shown we can create chances against anybody.
“This is San Jose who coming into the game had the best defensive record in MLS and we scored two tonight and could’ve had a few more. That was because we took care of the ball.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.