The Houston Dynamo control their own soccer playoff fate entering the final 10 weeks of the MLS season. The Dynamo (6-12-4) faced 12 Eastern Coinference foes over those ten weeks with all but one of them ahead in the standings. Since the arrival of four time USA World Cup defender DaMarcus Beasley and Honduran World Cup holding midfielder Luis Garrido, the team has taken on a renewed intensity and life for what they hope will be its eighth playoff berth in franchise history. In order for that to happen, here are three things the Dynamo side will have to accomplish.
First, the team must continue to protect its home pitch against the Eastern Conference. At the moment, Houston sports a 4-1-2 maqrk with a plus five goal differential thanks in large part to fourth year forward Will Bruin. The Dynamo have yet to lose a match in which Bruin either nets a goal or an assist. With the twelve remaining regular season games evenly split road and away, the Dynamo should be able to make up the necessary ground. Houston hosts DC United, New England and Montreal all of whom they've beaten at home in 2014. Of the remaining three, Houston has a road draw with Philadelphia, a road loss to Colorado and has yet to play Chicago. In its last three home matches, Houston is 1-0-2.
Second and maybe the most obvious, the Dynamo must become road warriors fighting for a positive result against an opposition that has held them winless in 2014 and owns a goal differential of plus 13. Not known for its road prowess, Houston must face the New York Red Bulls (NYRB), the Colorado Rapids and Sporting KC all of whom have shutout the men in orange this season. Toss in Toronto FC (TFC) who has scored six goals in two games against Houston and the Dynamo have their road work cut out for them. On the positive side, Houston faced both NYRB and TFC in July a total of three times finishing with a record of 0-1-2. Even better for Dominic Kinnear;s side is that they scored late to pull out a draw with New York and led Toronto in both matches before settling for a draw and a loss.
Finally, if Houston intends to make the playoffs, the defensive third of the field will have to draw tighter and more cohesive. No more can they get beat over the top or leave men unmarked in the box especially on set pieces. Goal keeper Tally Hall who deserved a better fate in Houston's 2-0 loss in Seattle last Sunday will need to be the Tally hall of 2012 and 2013 when he combined for 21 cleans sheets and a goals against average of 1.19.
All in all with ten weeks remaining in the regular season, Houston has the opportunity week in and week out to climb the 2014 playoff ladder and should they fail to do so will have no one but themselves to blame.
“The only way we can get higher is by beating the teams above us and that’s what we get the chance to do pretty much every week,” said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear following Tuesday morning's training session.