After the Houston Dynamo pulled double-digit fouls and yellow cards, plus three reds in only one game, have the Dynamo added a unique aggressive streak to their game and what does it mean for them moving forward?
Is it the ambition of the Houston Dynamo to become the tough guys on the pitch? It certainly looks that way.
Playing Sporting Kansas City at home August 4, the first of the red cards came against Alejandro Fuenmayor in the 14th minute. Then head coach Wilmer Cabrera got ejected for arguing with referee Chris Penso in the tunnel at halftime.
In stoppage time, Darwin Cerén and Alberth Elis also received red cards. Three in one game is good going. In total, the Dynamo saw 10 cards, the most in a single match in the club’s 13-year history. But what really got supporters scratching their heads? Sporting Kansas City scored only once, Diego Rubio in the 74th minute.
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In the next game at home, an August 4 U.S. Open Cup semi-final versus Los Angeles FC, the visitors posed another tough, physical match. And the winner of this match made the Open Cup finals for the first time.
The Dynamo picked up another three yellow cards plus 16 fouls. Late in the goalless regular time, Dynamo players went so far as to oppose freekicks until called off. This time the aggression paid off. After a penalty kick shootout, Houston qualified for their first Open Cup final.
The intimidation scheme now looked to see if it would work on the road.
Houston Dynamo headed to Mapfre Stadium for a match against the Columbus Crew on August 11. In another grinder of a game with no score through 90 minutes, the Dynamo accumulated another 11 fouls and two yellow cards. But the Crew almost perfectly matched them with 10 fouls and two yellows of their own.
Despite a total of six stoppage minutes, supporters relaxed at the 90-minute mark. Houston was 1-6-3 on the road prior to this match. It would feel good to leave with at least a point.
Unfortunately for the Dynamo, some of the players on the field also relaxed a bit. That allowed the Crew to work the ball into Houston’s defensive area. The Dynamo didn’t get enough into the defensive area to give goalkeeper Joe Willis some defensive help and the game was lost.
In simple terms: they turned off the aggression.
Not all the players turned it off. Evidence of that comes from Eric Alexander’s foul in the sixth stoppage minute. But the damage was already done. Gyasi Zardes scored five minutes prior, taking advantage of some uncommitted, passive defending, the very opposite of the aggression with which the game had been played with up until that point.
That left the Dynamo 1-6-4 on the road for the season; 7-10-6 overall. And well below the playoff line. For years, Cabrera has emphasized that Houston Dynamo should always maintain pressure; that his players specialize as attackers.
So while they may trail opponents in possession and passing accuracy, they must regain consistency in attack and disruption. Then, with the added element of aggression on the pitch, they can keep the game close, gather points and maybe seize opportunities for goals.
However, they must maintain that consistency until the final whistle. Without that persistence, the Houston Dynamo will have plenty of catching up to do in the standings. Staying aggressive, but the right side of it, will be vital.