Posted by : Stephen Eastepp September 3, 2012
|Dan Paladini celebrates with Fire supporters after scoring a goal against the Dynamo|
Only three points separate fourth place Houston and seventh place Montreal, giving all the clubs an equal shot at the playoffs with just a few weeks left of the MLS season. Due to the lack of MLS' ability to equally schedule games, all the teams involved have a different amount of games remaining.
Before we take a look at the remaining schedule, let's quickly recap tonight's loss to the Chicago Fire. The game couldn't have started out worse, with the Dynamo giving up a goal in the first minute of the game. Andre Hainault sent a long pass towards Jermaine Taylor that was picked off by Patrick Nyarko and taken all the way for a goal just 48 seconds into the match. I missed seeing the goal due to some internet feed issues, but heard it was Hainault's pass that led to the goal. After seeing the replay, it's clear Taylor could have prevented the turnover if he had more of a sense of the players around him. He could have cleared out the ball or at least broken up the play. If you look closely at Taylor, it looks like he misjudges it and is surprised when Nyarko picks it off and makes a run in on goal.
In the 19', Chicago added an insurance goal after more lackadaisical defending. After the Fire picked off a lazy Dynamo pass near midfield, they set out on the attack with a pretty even three on three. Forward Sherjill MacDonald found a streaking Dan Paladini who chipped it in the top corner of the net. Bobby Boswell was caught sleeping in the box and Paladini found himself unmarked. At this point, Houston was down 2-0 on two defensive mistakes. Sound familiar? Defensive mistakes crippled the Dynamo earlier in the season, but the club had seemed to leave these troubles behind.
Second half sub Brian Ching pulled one back for the Dynamo in the waning moments, but Chicago sealed the victory with a third goal in the 93rd minute. The end stats had the Dynamo out shooting the Fire and had the majority of the possession.
The early defensive mistakes are clearly the culprit behind yet another disappointing result, and you have to wonder if Houston can regroup to turn things around, let alone stay in the playoff race with just seven games left.
"Well, we gave away two goals, let's be honest. Anytime you present a team with a couple of gifts, it makes you chase the game. Two bad giveaways, two goals, and Chicago was more than happy to take those chances," Dominic Kinnear said after the game.Houston's next game is against Western Conference powerhouse Real Salt Lake, who sit in second place in the West with 46 points. It will be a big test for Houston who is winless since beating New York to take over first in the Eastern Conference back on August 8th.
Following the home match against RSL Thursday, Houston's schedule will balance out a bit and the team will benefit from a few games against some teams out of the playoff race. After RSL, the Dynamo will travel to Kansas City to face first place Sporting KC and to Philadelphia to face the struggling Union. After that, they'll have three straight home games against New England, Montreal, and Philadelphia before finishing the season in Colorado against the Rapids.
While Houston's schedule looks friendly, nothing is guaranteed when the club seems to be struggling with starting games off unfocused and not being able to close out winnable games. While the Chicago match was really the result of two defensive mistakes, the Dynamo didn't play terribly. Unfortunately, it's the inconsistency that we were all too familiar with towards the beginning of the year that seems to be creeping back into the Dynamo play.
Is it time for panic? No. But one thing is for sure, Houston can't afford to drop points in any other winnable games considering clubs like Montreal, Columbus, and Chicago are serious about making the playoffs. If the Dynamo want to make a run at another MLS Cup, they'll have to pull out some of that late season magic we all know they're capable of.
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