The Houston Dynamo’s 2009 regular season came to an end on Sunday as they beat Chivas USA 3-2 at the Home Depot Center. Coming into Sunday’s match, both teams had secured playoff berths, but the outcome would decide the seeding of the teams. By beating the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, the L.A. Galaxy had secured the top spot in the west going into the 2009 MLS Playoffs, but both Houston and Chivas had a shot at securing the second spot in the west with a win.
The Dynamo, who hadn’t won an MLS match since September 19th, when they beat Real Salt Lake at Robertson Stadium, came out strong with a two goal first half. Defender Andrew Hainault got the first Dynamo goal in the 26th minute, off of a Stuart Holden corner kick, and Dominic Oduro picked up a goal in the 29th minute. In the second half, Abe Thompson, who came on for a banged up Luis Angel Landin, scored the winning goal in the 52nd minute, his first goal as a Houston Dynamo. Chivas attempted to respond in the second half picking up its first goal thanks to Michael Lahoud in the 59th minute and then in the 88th minute Eduardo Lillingston converted a penalty kick. The score line stayed at 3-2 and the Dynamo closed their regular season with an important away victory.
In some ways, finishing in the second spot in the West was a bit of let down for Dynamo fans who saw their team go on amazing nine match streak where they picked up two draws and 7 wins, and putting them ahead in the Supporters Shield race. This streak started on April 19th when the Dynamo got their first win of the season in a home match against the Colorado Rapids. This streak came to an end on June 28th, the same day that the US lost to Brazil in the Confederations Cup final, when the Dynamo lost to the L.A. Galaxy at the Home Depot Center. After that loss, the Dynamo went on to only pick up five more wins in their remaining MLS matches.
During the second half of the MLS season the two main concerns for the Dynamo have been finishing and discipline. Since losing to the Galaxy in June, the only games where the Dynamo scored more then one goal were limited to games that they won. Of their five losses since the start of July, the Dynamo only managed to score in two of those matches. The need for the Dynamo to score goals is highlighted by the fact that in their past for MLS wins, their opponents scored multiple goals. As to why the Dynamo have had trouble finishing, there’s multiple factors, but it does seem that the Dynamo have a tendency to not take many higher risk shots and look for the pass first. The Dynamo will need to take the momentum of their three goals on Sunday and run with it in the playoffs.
While the lack of finishing is something that Houston Coach Dominic Kinnear and his Assistant Coach John Spencer can work on in practice, the lack of discipline is something each Dynamo player needs to keep in mind when they’re on the pitch. On Sunday October 18th, when the Dynamo hosted the Los Angeles Galaxy, Brian Ching picked up a red card when he put his hand in the face of a Galaxy player in a dust-up that began with a hard tackle by David Beckham on Ricardo Clark. Ching’s red card was the fifth Dynamo red card in as many matches. While losing players to injury is hard to prevent sometimes, smart play and decisions by players can protect them from missing action due to yellow and red cards. This past Sunday, the Dynamo managed to break their red card streak, but Geoff Cameron and Eddie Robinson each picked up a yellow card.
With their victory over Chivas USA on Sunday, the Houston Dynamo secured the second spot in the West, giving them home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. On Thursday they play at Seattle Sounders FC, and then will host Seattle on Sunday November 8th. So far, the Dynamo do not have the best record against the expansion side, this summer the Dynamo lost both of their matches in Seattle, one being in the semi-finals in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, and Seattle’s only appearance in Houston resulted in a draw. The Dynamo and Dynamo fans are looking to exact a little revenge on the expansion team, and this might be a series where the Dynamo’s veteran playoff experience will give them the edge. No matter the outcome, the Dynamo – Sounders series is shaping up to be one of the more interesting matchups in the round of the 2009 MLS playoffs.