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Dynamo eyes success on both fronts
The Seattle Sounders traveled to BBVA Compass Stadium with Clint Dempsey in the lineup for his first Sounders start. Dempsey – by himself – earns more than the entire Dynamo team. More than a few Sounders supporters expected the US captain's considerable presence to lift Seattle to victory and mask any lingering concerns about that creaky defense.
Houston buckled down in light of the potential threat and posted the sort of result designed to give notice to its future opposition. Giles Barnes scored twice – including a thumping drive from distance worthy of any game in the world – to pace the Dynamo to an impressive 3-1 victory on home soil.
"It was a workmanlike effort from everyone," Houston defender Bobby Boswell told reporters after the match. "Any time our guys are defending as a unit, holding ourselves accountable, making sure we stay with runners and know where everyone is, we're usually pretty tough to beat, especially at home."
At the moment, the Dynamo must focus on taking its show on the road with a Champions League test ahead against DIRECTV W Connection in Trinidad (live, FOX Sports 1, Tuesday, 8 p.m. ET). The peculiarities of road matches in CONCACAF always present a formidable challenge, but the Dynamo remains more equipped than most Major League Soccer sides to muddle through the obstacles presented and secure the desired results.
Houston coach Dominic Kinnear continues to place the Dynamo in a position to succeed on several fronts by increasing the breadth, the depth and the talent available within his ranks. The recent acquisition of promising Honduran international Alexander López on a young Designated Player deal highlights the improved options at Kinnear's disposal after a series of cleverand savvy acquisitions over the past few years. Giles Barnes and Andrew Driver were picked up at a discount from the United Kingdom, while Boniek Garcia was plucked out of Honduras.
It isn't easy to accumulate the depth required to compete on several fronts given the salary budget restrictions in place in MLS, even with the additional allocation money provided by the league office, but those moves – plus the contributions from a host of seasoned campaigners and several players carefully developed and nurtured over the past few years – provide Kinnear with the dexterity to adjust and tinker with his starting XI according to the needs of the situation.
Most of the fundamentals – solid and uncompromising at the back, brisk through midfield, combative at the front – remain the same even as the Dynamo adapts to changing demands. The firm defensive foundation (23 goals conceded, tied for second in MLS) and the presence of cultured performers like Garcia and Brad Davis also supply the ability to dictate the terms in possession if desired or required. The flexibility allows the Dynamo to compete with sides attempting to play neatly through midfield or slog through a match through more rudimentary means.
W Connection likely falls into the former category with its poor defensive record (three or more goals conceded in each of its past three CONCACAF Champions League outings, including the 3-1 home defeat by Panamanian outfit Arabe Unido on Thursday) and its unsettled defensive shape. This match presents the perfect opportunity for the Dynamo to find its footing in Group 1, lean on a few of its reserves, as Kinnear has done in recent editions of the competition, and snatch the victory required ahead of a critical league match at Montréal on Saturday.
The heightened stakes at this juncture of the calendar usually brings out the best in the Dynamo, though the scrutiny will inevitably fall upon other Champions League sides like MLS Cup nemesis LA Galaxy and Eastern Conference challengers Sporting Kansas City. It isn't a bother to a club accustomed to fulfilling its duties. Success, not attention, ranks highest on the list of the Dynamo's priorities more often than not.
As the recent run of success in MLS (four wins in the past six outings) and the victory over Seattle suggests, the Dynamo remain poised to fulfill those objectives. Houston will expect to navigate through its straightforward Champions League group and turn its attention to another assault on MLS Cup. It must receive frequent contributions from its occasionally goal-shy strikers to prolong its recent run of good form.
Even if the Dynamo needs to limp along with a paucity of goals, it may just find a way to achieve success on both fronts. It is, after all, what this club does, even if the rest of the confederation and the league tends to forget it from time to time.
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