HOUSTON – Philippe Senderos’ goals when he signed with the Houston Dynamo in late August were “to play as many matches as possible and to win as much as possible.”
So far, so good.
He only made two starts in as many appearances during the regular season. But now the three-time Swiss World Cup veteran is playing, having started all three playoff matches for Houston. And as far as winning “as much as possible,” his team is one of four left in the hunt for the 2017 MLS Cup.
Senderos, whose resumé consists of clubs most players could only dream of playing at, is no stranger to helping his side to a final. He was part of the Arsenal squad that made the club’s only UEFA Champions League final appearance in 2006, and also won a Community Shield and FA Cup with the Gunners.
He’s also faced a who’s who of legendary forwards, including Ronaldo, Sergio Agüero, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Now he will be tasked with facing one of American soccer’s icons when Houston face Clint Dempsey and Seattle Sounders FC in the MLS Western Conference Championship, which opens at BBVA Compass Stadium on Tuesday, Nov. 21 (8:30 p.m. CT | FS1, FOX Deportes).
“We played together for a few years [at Fulham],” said Senderos of Dempsey. “A dangerous player, very good, and it’s going to be a great match.”
Senderos won’t be the only Swiss making an impact in this series, with 2017 MLS Cup MVP Stefan Frei in goal for the Sounders.
“I don’t know him personally, he’s only played here in the United States, he didn’t play in Switzerland or with the national team,” said Senderos of Frei. “I’ve seen that he’s done a great job here – I'm happy for all the Swiss who do well abroad.”
Another of Senderos’ countrymen thriving in MLS is Montreal Impact midfielder Blerim Dzemaili – who featured in Switzerland’s hard-won victory over Northern Ireland in their UEFA qualifying playoff for a spot at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The last time La Nati needed a playoff to qualify, Senderos started in both matches and scored in the first leg against Turkey as Switzerland used the away-goal tiebreaker to advance to Germany 2006 after a 4-4 aggregate goals draw.
“They have a team with a lot of talent, maybe the strongest they’ve had up 'til now,” he said of his national team. “[Dzemaili] is a very good player and has done things very well this year with Montreal, and continues to do so with the national team.”
In the meantime, Senderos is making the most of the international break, having played 300 minutes so far in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs. The team captain in the last match, Senderos will look to help keep the Dynamo’s record of zero goals against at home during this postseason intact.
“We had a common goal, and everyone stuck to it; we did a great job,” he said of Houston’s underdog postseason run. “To see that every single person is involved, wants to be involved and helps the other teammates is the best thing we can do. We know that the only way we are going to do something special is if we stick together and work hard.”