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A Supporter’s View: Houston Dynamo

Houston_dynamo_logoThe MLS season will head into its fourth week this weekend and the defending champion Houston Dynamo still don’t have a win.

Yes, it is tough to believe considering the team’s depth, star power and experience, but the Dynamo is struggling early and it is unclear whether things will turn around in week four.

SBI Correspondent Alex Swaim took in the Dynamo’s latest disappointing finish and gives us his take on one of the league’s biggest early-season disappointments.:

Champs keep on struggling, still no wins


Two weekends, two games, two draws.  The results might have been the same, but last Saturday’s 0-0 draw against the Kansas City Wizards couldn’t have felt more different from the 3-3 draw against FC Dallas last week.

In the home opener against Dallas it felt like the Dynamo were unlucky to come away with the win because they kept making defensive mistakes and uncharacteristic midfield turnovers, despite dominating the game.  This week against Kansas City in the cozy confines of Community America Ballpark, they were unlucky to win because the other team kept them from winning it with good defense and timely saves from Kevin Hartman.  The difference between the results is that the Dynamo, despite not dominating the midfield, didn’t get beaten.

This weekend’s game was the fifth in 15 days for the orange, so it’s no surprise that the Dynamo didn’t score, despite have opportunities to do so.  Brian Ching and Dwayne DeRosario are still the heart of the Dynamo attack, and must be exhausted.  They’ve had two competitive games a week going on half a month now when you include the national team matches three days before the season opener.

DeRosario looked dangerous even on what must be tired legs, and he was just high on one shot that Hartman would have never had a chance to get to.  Franco Caraccio once again played well and meshed with the attacker better than in previous games, but he still missed a few passes that could have been dangerous.

Brian Ching’s play was better than his games against Dallas or the Concacaf Champions Cup tie in Costa Rica, but he still doesn’t look as good as he did two years ago when he got called up for the world cup.  Physically I don’t think he’s dropped off much, but he seems to be too content to play holding forward.  He needs to remember to take shots on goal even when they aren’t perfect – a lesson that the Dynamo could have used in their midweek game against Saprissa.  I expect Ching will get better as the attack in general settles down.

The defense played well against the seemingly potent Kansas City offense.  Even with Claudio Lopez and Scott Sealy attacking well they back four looked solid.  Bobby Boswell proved he could indeed keep himself between the ball and the goal, even though the field was small and Kansas City isn’t the fastest team in MLS. 

Eddie Robinson played a great game and didn’t look like he had been injured in the game against Dallas, but I have a feeling he’ll get a league-mandated rest week due to the elbow he put on Tyson Wahl.
And let’s not forget Tony Caig, who not only kept a clean sheet but did so in a convincing manner.  He had four saves on the game and more good plays than that.  He actually looked like a professional soccer player, and answered a lot of questions about his abilities on Saturday.

The most important part of this game though was the return of three of the four starting midfielders.  Brad Davis, Brian Mullan, and Ricardo Clark all started and played good games.  Stuart Holden also came in off the bench and immediately looked dangerous.  Imagine what it’s going to be like when all three return to form.  They’re the reason I’m not worried about only getting three draws and two losses in the last five games – when the Dynamo have their first choice midfield back and playing well they will score the goals and keep the other teams from scoring.  When they do, the Dynamo will start winning.


  1. Make it three draws in three weekends.

    I was at the HDC for the Galaxy game. Dynamo looked the better team for much of the game, but the defense is vulnerable to fast-breaks and counterattacks (i.e.: speed). Caig still looks a bit shaky, especially on crosses into the box. A couple times I could hardly believe how bad his positioning was. The offense looks decent, but for some reason the team isn’t finishing opportunities. On both of the Houston goals Saturday night, the ball should have been in the net before someone eventually put it there.

    As an aside, I was pro- Landon Donovan before this game, but I’m finding it harder and harder to like the guy. His dive and feigned injury were shameless. And then standing over the defender after his first goal — that taunting crap has no place in the game and should have earned a yellow card.

  2. This team can totally turn it around. The midfield is stacked and Caraccio definitely has shown promise.

    The only slightly worrying this is the rest of the league seems to be getting a lot better as a result of brining in foreign players. Case in point: Toronto signing Laurent Robert– WOW!

  3. @ Doug

    I’ll agree that they have enough time to physically rest between games, but every game – especially when you play forward or attacking midfield – you get little injuries that you cannot afford to let heal. Those add up. Even if you think that people could play professional matches twice a week for eternity, why do you think professional soccer players, coaches, and trainers all talk about how “fixture congestion” can kill a team? Why do you think that people who play tons of minutes sometimes have dropoffs towards the end of the season, even when they’re playing once a week?

    Heck, my shin still hurts from a game I played over a week ago, and it does slow me down when I have to run. Just because they’re well conditioned professionals doesn’t make them immune. It just means they don’t complain about it like I do 😛

  4. Doug…keep in mind that for the NCAA big dance, all advancing teams have the same fatigue factors – same site, same days, etc. – for the Thur/Sat or Fri/Sun brackets. For the Dynamo, the injuries and Rico’s MLS suspension have been big factors in the slow start…DeRo surely must be feeling the mental fatigue of working without Mullan, Davis, and Rico and perhaps doing too much…tho’ he does still looks dangerous. I am most worried about the D this season, Eddie R’s suspension should give us some sense of Boswell’s capabilty (a fomer MLS D of year ’05???, an award Eddie’s not in consideration for it appears) and whether Ianni can step up. Speed is less critical than cohesion per se…..Eddie is the glue, but let’s see what sticks without him

  5. Must admit, I’m totally dismayed by their start this year. But it isn’t unusual for successful teams to get off to slow starts–there tends to be an attitude that they can just turn it on.

    There’s been plenty of distractions this year, but I’ve got to say being tired simply isn’t one of them. Two games a week for a month? Poor babies! Think about what you’re saying. Even the hardest line taken by sports trainers across the country allows for complete recovery of the body in a 72-hour period. These are mostly 20-something world class athletes and I’m supposed to believe that two games a week would burn them out? Let’s hope not or the MLS AND US are in very poor straights (not to mention Houston!). Take a look at the NCAA’s and talk to me about “tired.” Sheesh.

  6. Interesting point about Ching not shooting enough. I like his game as a playmaker holding up the ball and making the pass, but especially with the dearth of forwards on the Dynamo, he needs to take responsibility for scoring goals this year. Red flags should go up every time we see Ching hitting crosses into the box, he needs to be the guy in the box attacking the goal.

    With Robinson out, are they going to start Ianni? Curious to see how he plays. I still think Hou needs to find someone with some speed on defense or fast teams will kill them. I think it’s no accident that KC was the team they finally looked solid against, they can have enough class to handle talented slow teams.


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