Houston will receive richly deserved plaudits in the wake of its historic 2-1 victory over Chicago on Sunday.The Dynamo's achievements over the past few years will look even better with some distance.
That statement reveals quite a bit about the magnitude of Houston's 35-match home unbeaten run in all competitions. It is a streak assumed from Real Salt Lake (34 matches from 2009-2011) and carried forward with the latent desire to prolong it for an undetermined length of time.
Of course, that sort of determination forms the foundation of such a protracted period of success. MLS isn't the best league in the world, but it is likely one of the most unforgiving. The inherent parity imposed by the single-entity system means most, if not all, matches present some form of peril. Throw in the inevitable fixture congestion (particularly with those midweek CONCACAF Champions League matches) and it is easy to explain why even the top sides chuck away a home match or two every year.
Houston has somehow managed to avoid those pitfalls time and time again since suffering a 2-0 defeat to Columbus on June 18, 2011. Avoiding defeat for such an extended period isn't easy or fortuitous, especially with the personnel turnover experienced by the Dynamo during that period. It requires a considerable mix of graft (one of the qualities always ignored in those RSL sides) and skill (one of the qualities always ignored in this Dynamo group).
“People say, ‘What is the secret?’ and I always say that we just have a good team,” Houston coach Dominic Kinnear told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “It’s about consistency. I think we have always had a good team, have always played well at home, but if you don’t have a good team, you don’t have that record.”
This Dynamo outfit stands right next to Los Angeles and Sporting Kansas City as one of the top domestic sides in the past couple of seasons. It doesn't operate with high pressure and physical prowess or vast resources underpinned by underrated cohesiveness. It instead prefers a familiar, finely tuned approach with a squad filled with solid performers and one glittering star.
The protagonist of this landmark result should come as no surprise. Brad Davis created the first goal for Will Bruin with a textbook piece of wide play – carve out a yard of space, provide a dangerous ball for the striker to attack – and then received perhaps the slightest bit of luck as his carefully weighted ball floated into the far side of the net for the second half winner.
Davis always provides the Dynamo with the one key for such a sustained period of success: a reliable match winner. He offers an outlet to salvage something from nothing. He supplies the extra touch of class on a night when the rearguard does its job to turn one point into three. It isn't just about him – Bruin and Boniek Garcia play their influential parts, while Kinnear has shopped the British market wisely to integrate Giles Barnes and Andrew Driver into the mix – given the strength of the squad, but it always can be about him. And that makes a difference, too.
But this story involves more than just Davis, Kinnear or any one person on or off the field. It encompasses a group of talented players striving toward the same goal without falling prey through the natural rhythms of a season or a continental campaign. They have managed to do so without reproach for 35 consecutive matches in two home venues.
At some point in the distant or not so distant future, this magnificent streak will finally come to a halt and force a period of reflection. And with a little time and distance, the impressive nature of this already substantial accomplishment will somehow increase.
Five Points – Week 7
1. Robert Earnshaw deserves praise for what he does well: The Toronto FC striker recently ruminated that he'd like his teammates to create a few more chances in front of goal to allow him the latitude to miss one or two opportunities now and then. Right now, the former Championship plunderer cherishes every decent sight of goal and converts with a ruthlessness befitting his vast international experience with Wales. Earnshaw's fifth goal of the campaign in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Philadelphia – involving a clever run to latch onto an Ashtone Morgan long ball as the Union rearguard hesitated and a clipped finish over the onrushing Zac MacMath – reinforced his class at this level and showed why the Reds will need him to retain this sort of form to procure results on a regular basis.
2. No secrets about the struggles in Seattle: Sounders FC boss Sigi Schmid fielded a lineup without Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins in Saturday's 0-0 draw with New England. His players huffed and puffed as they have done over the past few matches, but they lacked the necessary class to carve out more than a handful of chances (though Steve Zakuani should have taken at least one of them) or convert those modest numbers of openings into the goal required to win the game. At the moment, Seattle doesn't cut apart teams or punish them when they eventually conjure a way through. And that deficiency is why this side is the only team in the league without a victory.
3. Crass celebrations mar George John's wonderful winner: John pushed up field in the waning stages of Saturday's 1-0 peculiar victory over Los Angeles. He kept his nerve when Eric Hassli knocked Michel's service onto the bar and reacted first to nod home the winner off the underside of the bar. He certainly didn't deserve what greeted him next: a flying projectile to the back of his head from one of his own fans.
The incident – and the laser pointer directed at Landon Donovan's face as he prepared to take a corner kick earlier in the night – placed a pall on a great night for the Western Conference leaders. Instead of discussing the bumper crowd or the important victory over another top side, FCD will spend the next few days talking about why a small minority of its fans did not behave.
4. A productive trip to Houston...even in defeat: Chicago could have used a point from its excursion to BBVA Compass Stadium, but it can at least take some solace from its display. Frank Klopas' side responded well to conceding first, snatched an equalizer through Chris Rolfe and slugged it out with the Dynamo before Brad Davis intervened with the winner. The efforts may not have produced a point, but they did provide something worth building upon as the Fire tries to emerge from its early season hole.
5. It is a shame that Will Johnson knew the likely punishment so soon after Alan Gordon's inexcusable utterance: The Portland captain flashed three fingers after the San Jose striker directed a homophobic epithet towards him in the second half of the Timbers' 1-0 win at JELD-WEN Field on Sunday night. He is, of course, likely correct after the NBC Sports Network cameras picked up the derogatory language and several websites disseminated those unseemly words to a much wider audience. MLS has trod down this path a time or two now, though one wonders when exactly the message will sink into the combatants.
Gordon released a statement through the club a couple of hours after the match concluded: “I sincerely apologize for what I said in our game tonight. Although I said it in the heat of the moment, that language has no place in our game. That is not my character, but there is still no excuse for saying what I said. I made a mistake and I accept full responsibility for my actions.”