Nov 1, 2012, 12:00 AM EST
If you need one win on the road in Major League Soccer’s playoffs, you sure want Dominic Kinnear coaching your team.
For the second year in a row the Dynamo launched their post-season with a huge road win, this time as the No. 5 seed over No. 4 Chicago Fire at chilly Toyota Park.
Will Bruin had both goals, early on a corner kick and then straight-away after the break. Houston has to rest up quickly; up Sunday is a home match against Eastern Conference champion Sporting Kansas City.
Man of the Match: Will Bruin struggled when Houston asked him to play as a lone striker in a 4-3-3, but he sure looks comfortable when the Dynamo reverts to its tried-and-true 4-4-2. The Dynamo’s “Dancing Bear” scored both of the visitors’ goals by doing what Chicago Fire players mostly could not: ruthlessly finishing his chances in those decisive moments.
Threesome of knowledge: Things We Learned
Hard to say what was more at fault, Chicago’s questionable tactics or Chicago’s curious absence of urgency. It’s the playoffs, fellows! (Maybe that weak crowd had the home town men bummed out.)
Patrick Nyarko on the right and Chris Rolfe up the middle looked up for the job for Chicago. Any others? Not so much. And the Fire’s 4-2-3-1 just didn’t provide enough support. Chicago’s defensive shape generally worked, but Fire manager Frank Klopas sacrificed a lot for the sake of it. Specifically, holding midfielders Pavel Pardo and Logan Pause proved redundant elements, rarely straying far enough forward to link up with and provide an additional option for Rolfe.
The result was a muted attack. By the time Klopas brought on Brazilian midfielder Alex for Pause at halftime and rearranged the look, it was too late.
Kinnear also used two defensive-minded midfielders. The difference was in Ricardo Clark’s positioning; he played ahead of Adam Moffat in more of a diamond, although he dropped back into a “flat” midfield when Chicago controlled the ball. But getting Clark forward in his positioning was the tactical checkmate. Well, having Corey Ashe rampaging up and down the left side helped a lot, too.
Don’t blame Fire veteran center back Arne Friedrich for anything that happened. He was everything you’d expect of a man with all that experience, always in the right spots and winning everything coming his way.
Friedrich even supplied the big pass out of the back that led to Chicago’s late goal.
Klopas will do himself a huge favor by convincing the German veteran to stay around for another season.
Neither team’s right back covered himself in glory out there. Chicago’s Jalil Anibaba will remember this one as a Halloween horror. It certainly wasn’t his fault that he slipped while marking Bruin on Houston’s opening goal. Whether that shook his confidence or whether this just wasn’t his night afterward, hard to say. But … ooof!
He struggled to deal with Houston’s left side, Brad Davis coming inside and Ashe overlapping along the outside. Chicago needed to provide more cover, either from Patrick Nyarko or from one of the defensive midfielders. When there wasn’t, Anibaba either had to foul or he struggled to prevent the crosses.
For Houston, young Kofi Sarkodi’s night was a similar orgy of the unfortunate, bad passes, poor-one-on-one defending and failure to step up with the line quickly enough. He did, at least, demonstrate the recovery speed a few times to get himself out of the ditch.
Packaged for take-away
- Houston manager Dominic Kinnear is now 11-7-4 in the MLS playoffs.
- Houston didn’t play a perfect game either, but the Chicago Fire’s finishing simply was not as brutally efficient.
- Chicago’s Sean Johnson is one of the U.S. international up-and-comers, but he sure didn’t look like one early, flubbing an attempted punch and spilling a long-ranged shot into rebound-danger territory.
- Meanwhile, Houston’s Tally Hall had six saves generally added credibility to the argument that he deserves the national team calls more than Johnson or D.C. United’s Bill Hamid. (Although Hall is a bit older at 27.)
- We beat on referee Baldomero Toledo on this blog quite a bit. So, only fair to say that he got on top of things early Wednesday, mostly kept the cards in his pocket and managed the match pretty well. He did fall back into the old Toledo habit of not calling fouls late, but it was still one of his better matches.
- That killer goal for Houston right after second half kickoff started on a Gonzalo Segares give-away.
Dec 7, 2013, 12:23 PM EST
Cardiff are the ones left fearing the relegation zone, after a revived Crystal Palace made victory look easy.
Dec 7, 2013, 12:23 PM EST
Can Altidore get his second goal in as many games when Tottenham come to town? Watch live, here:
Dec 7, 2013, 12:16 PM EST
Inconsistent Norwich will be thrilled to have put a bit of distance between themselves and the drop zone.
Dec 7, 2013, 12:10 PM EST
Stoke City pulled off a huge shock at the Britannia, as they beat high-flying Chelsea 3-2 on Saturday thank to Oussama Assaidi‘s late winner. The winger, on-loan from Liverpool, smashed home a beauty in stoppage time to seal a magnificent win for the Potters and send them comfortably into mid-table. In a topsy-turvy affair, Chelsea…
Dec 7, 2013, 12:03 PM EST
Saints pin back City after terrific display from the home side at St. Mary’s:
Dec 7, 2013, 11:58 AM EST
Liverpool pushed West Ham even closer to the danger zone, although the visitors’ own goals gave the Reds a hand.
Dec 7, 2013, 11:00 AM EST
Saints striker bags absolute stunner with mazy run and magical finish:
Dec 7, 2013, 9:56 AM EST
Watch on as the PL pays a fitting tribute to Mandela:
Dec 7, 2013, 9:52 AM EST
Newcastle grabbed an historic win at Old Trafford on Saturday, with David Moyes’ United looking utterly devoid of ideas.
Dec 7, 2013, 9:44 AM EST
Chelsea look to keep the heat up on Arsenal, will the Potters stop Mourinho’s men? Watch live, here:
Dec 7, 2013, 9:34 AM EST
Both West Brom and Norwich could really do with all three points — will either succeed in grabbing them?
Dec 7, 2013, 9:26 AM EST
Can the Saints stop the rot after three straight defeats? Will City make it four wins on the spin? Watch live, here:
Dec 7, 2013, 9:22 AM EST
Short on goals and short on wins, both sides will be looking for more than a drab draw out of this one.
Dec 7, 2013, 9:17 AM EST
Liverpool wants another dramatic victory at Anfield, but the struggling West Ham certainly won’t be eager to give it to them.
Dec 7, 2013, 8:20 AM EST
How to watch all the PL games live online or via the app:
Dec 7, 2013, 7:35 AM EST
Manchester United manager David Moyes waits too long to announce his match day squad, says veteran Rio Ferdinand.
Dec 7, 2013, 7:04 AM EST
Manchester United look to bounce back from last week’s defeat, and are hoping that the return of Robin van Persie will help make up for Wayne Rooney’s absence.
Dec 6, 2013, 11:24 PM EST
It appears that Arsene Wenger will remain a Gunner for at least three more years, with a contract extension reportedly near completion.
Dec 6, 2013, 10:39 PM EST
With injuries putting Robin van Persie on more and more of an island at Old Trafford, are troubling times creating a stir in the dressing room?
Dec 6, 2013, 9:58 PM EST
Cameras caught the main man of English soccer laughing and making a throat-slash gesture when England were selected into their devilish group.
- Stoke City 3-2 Chelsea: Assaidi’s screamer hands Potters massive win 0
- Southampton 1-1 Manchester City: Osvaldo’s wonder-goal pegs back Citizens 1
- WATCH: Daniel Osvaldo scores Goal of the Season contender, as Saints peg back Man City – Video 0
- Manchester United 0-1 Newcastle: Red Devils slip up once again 2
- 2014 World Cup Draw: Recapping the event (39)
- Video of Jermaine Jones’ terrific goal Saturday for Schalke (23)
- What US Soccer wants from the World Cup draw (23)
- 2014 World Cup Draw: USA in Group of Death with Germany, Portugal, Ghana – Schedule, times, venues (21)
- Now that we know the U.S. opponents, which 23 players should Jurgen Klinsmann bring to Brazil? (19)