Having scored six goals in their last three MLS games, the Houston Dynamo seemed to have finally figured out what had been almost a season-long offensive drought. But the Dynamo weren’t seeing any benefit from that, as those three matches yielded just one point since Houston conceded nine goals, including embarrassing efforts in 3-0 and 4-2 losses to the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC, respectively.
There was improvement shown Sunday night, as the Dynamo controlled most of the play and got a freak goal late to beat D.C. United, 1-0, on a late Will Bruin goal — a key win over the second-place team in Major League Soccer‘s Eastern Conference. The win lifted Houston to 6-11-4 (22 points) and probably kept their still shaky playoff hopes alive.
But helped by an offense that was able to hold possession and create chances, the Houston defense didn’t face as much pressure as it had in previous games. The unit was also boosted by the debut of U.S. National Team veteran DaMarcus Beasley, who started at left back. His work on both sides of the ball helped the Dynamo run the game and kept United back on its heels for the most part. Beasley is a veteran of four World Cups, but last played in MLS with the Chicago Fire in 2004. Despite his age (32) however, he seemed to fit in well and this might be the spark Houston needs to get its defensive house in order.
The Dynamo aren’t out of the woods,though. Houston’s next match is at Seattle on Sunday and the Sounders lead the Western Conference. Then, Houston plays nothing but fellow Eastern Conference opponents for the rest of the season, including two key matches each against the Philadelphia Union and the Columbus Crew. Houston will need overall efforts like the one it got tonight in beating United to make up a five-point gap on the Crew for the final playoff spot in the East.
Houston’s goal differential this season is a woeful -17, the second-worst in the league. Even if the Dynamo seem close to a playoff spot, that number must improve through continued improvement on defense if Houston has any hope of playing its usual MLS role of being a serious contender in the playoffs.