HOUSTON – The Houston Dynamo know credit doesn’t often come their way, even after making the Western Conference Championship a season ago.
Most national media, MLSsoccer.com included, don’t have the Orange making a return to the playoffs. Some have them finishing as low as 10th in a what surely will be a tightly contested Western Conference. But on Saturday, against a much talked about Atlanta United team that many think could challenge for the MLS Cup, Houston took care of the business and then some in a dominant 4-0 victory.
“Of course, we don’t have the credit with what we do, but we’re not here to receive credit from anyone,” Cabrera said. “We’re here to work and to talk on the field. There [on the field] is where we need to talk. And today was a good day, but it’s only one game out of 34.”
Houston got to "talking" within five minutes of kick off. In the fifth minute, Alberth Elis used his superb speed to get around Atlanta defender Leandro Gonzalez-Pirez and found Andrew Wenger in the box. Elis sent a low cross, which Wenger tapped in for the game’s first goal. The goal was Wenger’s third in a season opener.
From there, the Dynamo would score thrice more before halftime, quieting all the chatter prior to the match about Atlanta's star-studded attack and potential for improving on their promising 2017 expansion season.
Not that the Dynamo weren’t listening.
“Look, we're worried about ourselves,” said goalkeeper Chris Seitz, who was making his Dynamo debut. “They [media] get paid to make their predictions and we get paid to go out there and put results together.”
Houston refuses to consider this game a ‘statement’ win.
“The only statement that will ever be appreciated is if we make the playoffs again. And we just played one of 34 games, and there are 33 more games to go,” Wenger said. “There’s going to be good games and there’s going to be bad games. And that’s how we get through them.”
For Atlanta, there’s no denying this was a bad game. Perhaps the worst in the team’s young existence. Five Stripes head coach Tata Martino put the onus of the loss on the team’s defending.
“A big part of soccer is defending and I think it cost us a lot [to] recover the ball. It cost us a lot in 1-v-1 defending,” Martino said. “On the offensive side of things we probably created as many scoring opportunities as Houston, but on the defensive side, things just weren’t working. And I mean the whole team.”
For the Dynamo, it’s just one game to build on as they aim to prove last season was no fluke. Atlanta, on the other hand, leave Houston with more questions than answers.