Friday, September 28, 2012

A Must Win Match for the Houston Dynamo?

It's really difficult to call any given Major League Soccer match a must win match for one or the other club (unless, maybe, it's the last match of the regular season), but it seems that many Houston Dynamo fans believe that their team's next match is a must win if the Dynamo want to make it to the MLS Cup Playoffs.

On Saturday evening, the Houston Dynamo will host the New England Revolution at BBVA Compass Stadium. The Dynamo currently sit at 5th place in the Eastern Conference standings, with 46 points, while the Revolution sit at 9th place with 29 points. While the Revolution obviously don't have any shot at passing the Dynamo in the standings, this isn't Serie A, this is America, where lowly teams love to play spoiler. After the Dynamo's 1-3 loss to the Union, another low standing team, in Philadelphia this past Sunday, Dynamo fans are obviously concerned about Saturday's match.

I don't begrudge Dynamo fans their concerns, I've been a follower of Houston professional sports long enough to know that Houston teams have a bad tendency of playing to the level of their opponent, but it's a little too early to proclaim Saturday's match a "must win game."

The Dynamo still have four more regular season matches, including Saturday's match, before the end of the season. Three of these matches are at home, where the Dynamo have yet to lose this season, and then the last match of the season is away at the Colorado Rapids on October 27th.

There's an old cliché in sports: "We're taking it one game at a time." That's what the Houston Dynamo have to do right now, and that's what the Houston Dynamo's fans need to do right now too. The team and its fans need to focus on Saturday's match right now. Not on what's going on in the rest of MLS or the Eastern Conference, and not on the standings or the playoff race.

If the Dynamo focus solely on the match before them, focus solely on winning that match, and go out there and try to win that match, then, ultimately, everything will fall into place.

There's no point freaking out over the standings or getting all emotional and irrational based on the last result. Take it one game at a time, go out there and win that game, and everything will be fine.

Saturday's match begins at 7:30 p.m. central time and will be broadcast on KPRC Channel 2 in Houston, with the radio broadcast on Sports Talk 790.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

U.S. National Team Picks Up Win Over Jamaica in World Cup Qualifying

After the United States National Team lost to Jamaica, 2-1, in Kingston, Jamaica in a CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier on Friday, the US fan base went into full on Chicken Little - "The Sky is Falling!" - hysteria mode, fretting that the US would not make it to the Hexagonal Stage of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying.

Last night in Columbus, Ohio, the US got a chance to redeem itself against Jamaica, which they did with a 1-0 win against a Jamaica side that came into the match clearly hoping for a 0-0 draw. Jamaica's "park the bus" approach to the match gave the US numerous shots on goal early in the first half, many of which were denied by the woodwork.

The winning goal finally came for the US in the 55th minute when Herculez Gomez got the ball by Jamaica's keeper on a gorgeous free kick. After the US goal, Jamaica finally turned up the heat offensively, but it was too little, too late as the US picked up the 3 points.

The US is now tied at the top of Group A with Guatemala and Jamaica on 7 points, but the US and Guatemala lead on goal differential. This stage of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying wraps up next month when the US heads to Antigua to play Antigua & Barbuda on October 12th and then hosts Guatemala in Kansas City, Kansas on October 16th.

One thing that has become increasingly evident in recent years is that CONCACAF is a much tougher Federation to play in as more players from the smaller countries, such as Jamaica, have gained valuable experience and development in leagues such as MLS. Last night's match was a reflection of this since Jamaica started 5 MLS players while the US only started 1 MLS player. This is a reality that fans of the US, and fans of Mexico, need to start accepting and coming to terms with.

The CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying structure is still weighted in favor of Mexico and the US, but said teams and their fans need to stop underestimating the other CONCACAF teams. That's a lesson the US learned this past Friday.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Houston Dynamo Get 1-0 Win Against Real Salt Lake Thanks to Late Penalty

Photo by Nigel Brooks

Between the weird scheduling of the match on a Thursday night, the questionable officiating, depleted rosters, and the rather languid play, last night's match between the Houston Dynamo and Real Salt Lake took the "beautiful" out of the beautiful game. Until the final seconds of the match, it appeared that the score would stay at 0-0 and the Dynamo would have to wait until September 29th to finally pick up their first MLS home win since August 3rd, but then Macoumba Kandji was fouled in the box and Colin Clark converted giving the Dynamo a 1-0 win and breaking their 4 match streak of not winning an MLS match.

Going into Thursday's match, things did not look promising for the Dynamo squad, which had been decimated by injuries, international call-ups, and some sort of vicious stomach virus. Instead of starting the match with the typical 7 substitutes on the bench, the Dynamo managed to only put 5 players on the bench and had to cancel the reserves match due to the lack of available players.

For over half of the match, it appeared that the Dynamo were in a preventive defense, just trying to hold off the Salt Lake attack in hopes of picking up a draw. Late in the second half, the Dynamo managed to regroup and put more pressure on Salt Lake Keeper Nick Rimando, who put on a stellar performance that surely foreshadowed his future at the international level.

Hope of a goal appeared in the 75th minute when Will Bruin picked up a penalty, and Brad Davis was given the green light to take the kick, but, to the chagrin of Dynamo fans, Rimando, who is one of the best keepers in the MLS at saving penalty kicks, prevented Davis' attempt from going into the net.

In the end though, Rimando turned out to be his own worst enemy because he was the player that fouled Kandji, thereby setting up Clark's match winning penalty kick.

The 3 points that the Dynamo picked up last night will potentially prove crucial as the Dynamo fight to ensure the squad a spot in the MLS Cup playoffs.

Next up for the Dynamo is a visit to Livestrong Sporting Park to face the current leaders of the Eastern Conference, Sporting Kansas City, on Friday September 14th at 7:00 pm cdt. The match will be televised on NBC Sports Network.