Houston Dynamo Destroyed: Panic Button Time?


Apr 23, 2014; Harrison, NJ, USA; Houston Dynamo goalie Tally Hall (1) makes a save against the New York Red Bulls during the first half of a game at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The normal routine on Houston Dynamo match day at House of Houston goes something like this: Leopoldo Ponce and I both watch the match and one of us (typically me) writes a match recap. The following morning I wake up nice and early and watch the match again, pausing and rewinding throughout, making notes and trying to pick out all of the nuances.

If you follow me on Twitter, you saw my recap on Wednesday night following the match. It went as follows:

Simple and to the point. There really was not much more to it than that. It was a poor performance in every sense of the word. Was it the worst performance by the Dynamo in recent years? Sadly not; I’d give that dishonor to the 5-1 thumping at Montreal last season. Nevertheless, it was not pretty.

When I woke up Thursday morning to a lovely day, the first thing I asked myself was, “do I want to subject myself to that travesty of a match again?” The answer was, “no, no and hell no”. I suppose if I was a true professional, I would suck it up, watch and try to dissect what went wrong. Sadly, I do not get paid to do this but the benefit of not getting paid is I can act “unprofessionally” at times if I so wish. Thursday was a day where I so wished.

Still, it is difficult to let such a catastrophic match go by without some comment, so after exercising my demons by taking a break and writing about why the Houston Texans should draft Jadeveon Clowney, I decided it was time to finally stop denying Wednesday night happened  and write about it.

Immediately following the match, CSN Houston’s Sebastien Salazar interviewed central defender David Horst. Horst commented that, “we did not show up to play tonight”. That is a turn of phrase that I have never quite understood. How is it possible for professional athletes to not show up for a match? You did not practice hard enough all week, you did not tactically prepare, you forgot you had a match?

Failing to show up for a match is an indictment of the entire team; players and coaching staff. It suggests the team was unprepared and played below its abilities, which is pretty unforgivable for a team of professionals who are paid to be prepared and play well.

Apr 23, 2014; Harrison, NJ, USA; New York Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry (14) controls the ball against the Houston Dynamo during the second half of a game at Red Bull Arena. The Red Bulls defeated the Dynamo 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s be clear, the New York Red Bulls have been awful this season. Their back four have been unable to stop anyone from scoring this year. Prior to Wednesday night, the offense had tallied only 8 goals in 7 matches. Thierry Henry had been far from his best thus far, although he showed signs of rounding into form against Philadelphia. Bradley Wright-Phillips had been a mediocre striker at best since arriving in New York, just as he was in England.

The Dynamo contrived to make New York look like MLS contenders and made Wright-Phillips look like Luis Suarez. That Wright-Phillips became the first Englishman to score a hat trick in MLS; a player who had only managed 2 goals in 13 previous matches, is a travesty.

So, is it time for Dynamo faithful to panic? Fans would certainly be justified in panicking about a team that has managed to secure only one point out of a possible 15 over the past five matches, has been shut out three matches in a row and that has not scored a quality goal from the normal run of play since the opener (the three goals since then were a fluke deflection off the foot of Montreal’s Eric Miller and two set pieces).

The answer, however, is a wishy-washy yes and no. On the no side, this is hardly the first time that the Dynamo have experienced an early or mid-season swoon and that has not stopped them from making the playoffs in every season bar 2010. Dom Kinnear himself has pointed out on numerous occasions that the nature of MLS is streaky; teams go through good runs and bad runs.

We saw it constantly last season, including with our neighbors to the north who shall not be named. At one point, they were in the Supporter’s Shield spot and yet they did not make the playoffs.

Summer is coming (feels like it is here today) and teams will no longer be able to high press the Dynamo in Houston for 90 minutes. Of course they are welcome to try, as that will play into the Dynamo hands. In the meantime, the Dynamo have been generating plenty of scoring opportunities; the law of averages says that eventually some of those chances will start going in.

The mistakes that have been made are all correctable. The defense has had its positive moments and David Horst continues to impress. Kofi Sarkodie’s absence was felt against New York – as good as Henry can be when playing at his best as he did on Wednesday, it is hard to see him abusing Sarkodie the way he did Creavalle.

Apr 23, 2014; Harrison, NJ, USA; New York Red Bulls defenseman Jamison Olave (4) and Houston Dynamo forward Giles Barnes (23) fight for a ball during the second half of a game at Red Bull Arena. The Red Bulls defeated the Dynamo 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

On the yes side, however, something about this season feels different. This team feels eerily like the 2010 version that missed the playoffs or last years version which was, frankly, a bit lucky to make the playoffs.

Apart from the opener, Will Bruin has looked pretty much the same as the Bruin of 2013 who struggled all year long. Giles Barnes looks the most improved Dynamo player, however over the first seven matches of the season he has played increasingly like a midfielder rather than a forward. There does not seem to be a good goal scoring option on the bench either.

The last couple of weeks have suggested that the Dynamo depth may not be as good as has been advertised. Andrew Driver has been relatively disappointing this season, even when replacing Brad Davis on his more comfortable left side. Tony Cascio has struggled and looks like he might be a step too slow to be an effective starter in MLS. The impact of missing Sarkodie was clearly felt against New York.

Now, imagine pulling not only Davis but also Boniek Garcia out of this team from mid-May until the end of June for the World Cup. The pair could potentially miss up to six matches. At this stage, fans would be forgiven for concluding that the Dynamo will look pretty toothless without them. A slump during that stretch on top of the slump the team is currently going through could be devastating to their playoff chances.

So, while it is not time to press the panic button just yet (we are only seven matches into the season, after all), there does seem to be enough reason for concern so as to justify having your finger hovering and ready to press. Let’s hope the Dynamo find a way to score goals against Portland this weekend and that a win starts a positive streak for a change.