Early goals change games, highlighted by the Rapids’ two most recent outings. An early breakthrough drives the opposing team out of their comfort zone and forces a rapid re-think over their game plan.
Dominic Kinnear, the Houston head coach, will have given his players their final instructions just moments before sending them out into the rarefied air of Commerce City. Within five minutes of Sunday’s start at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, the Dynamo were gasping, having had the wind sucked out of them by Deshorn Brown’s early strike.
Brown’s task was made easier by Marvell Wynne’s pin-point cross, as well as Houston’s questionable defending. The Jamaica international – picked out by Wynne’s delivery – was unmarked, and duly punished the visitors with a thumping downward header.
The second-year pro, without Edson Buddle, Gabriel Torres or Vicente Sánchez for company, embraced his role as the lone striker, aided by the intelligent, quick-thinking Dillon Powers. It was this combination that produced the second goal, which had more than a hint of offside about it. That said, Brown still showed strength and speed, but more importantly a natural striker’s instinct, as he unleashed a first-time shot which whistled past Tally Hall.
At 2-0 up, the Rapids were in control. Often a nervy scoreline, there was little suggestion that the Dynamo were suddenly going to spring into life. They were chasing the game, not something visiting teams would choose to do a mile above sea level. And that is why hitting sides early on is the key to success at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Do not let them settle and dictate the pace of the game which – in turn – allows them the chance to conserve energy and catch their breath.
It could, and maybe should, have been at least 3-0 by the interval. Let’s try not to dwell upon ‘the one that got away’, for Kamani Hill thankfully made amends just minutes after the break with his delightful back-heel, which was nominated for MLS Goal of the Week, and even inspired the phrase ‘sinister, soccer sauce’ from the chaps at ESPN’s Sportscenter.
At 3-0, though, the Dynamo began to pump the ball long, which was ‘very un-Dynamo-like’, according to my Altitude TV colleague, Marcelo Balboa, but another indication that the opposition had been forced to improvise, their actions a reaction to having lost control of the situation.
The ‘route one’ approach had minor success, such as Will Bruin forcing the Rapids goalpost to take a standing count with a thunderous half-volley, while a couple of dips in concentration defensively with possession given away softly, almost allowed the desperate Dynamo in for a consolation – as Montreal Impact had been gifted eight days previous.
Chris Klute was named in the MLS Team of the Week, but his teammate on the opposite side must have been mighty close to joining him. Wynne was strong defensively, but he also terrorized the Dynamo offensively with some surging runs and appears to have struck up a decent understanding with Dillon Serna. Brown not only scored goals but he also served as provider, teeing one up nicely for Serna in the first half, which seemed to get away from the youngster.
The Rapids have shown in the two most recent games that they can move the ball quickly, they can start with a bang and they can take their chances. Another positive from Sunday was the possession percentage (61.8%) which, on its own, can be misleading, but add to that the 15 shots (nine on target) and that tells me the Rapids were doing positive things when in possession.
If we’re being honest, the Rapids will face much tougher teams this year than the Impact and the Dynamo (in their current sorry state). That said, the Impact did beat the league’s in-form side, New England Revolution at the weekend. And, as already alluded to, I’m sure the Dynamo will be markedly improved when back at full strength. But you play the cards you’re dealt. The Rapids can only seek to beat the side that’s put in front of them, which they have done so convincingly in the two recent games.
The goals are flowing, the points tally is growing and – as a consequence – confidence is coursing through the veins of the Rapids. Two more MLS games follow before the mini-World Cup break. On current form, and with their tails up, I’m sure the players would want to keep on going. Finish with a flourish, fellas, and then enjoy a little breather, before the US Open Cup tie against Orlando City SC (June 17)..