Come September and October of every season since 2006, the Houston Dynamo are the one team feared more by the rest of the league than any other franchise. You can change the names and the faces and yet the outcome remains the same when the regular season is complete. The Houston Dynamo with the exception of one season are in the playoffs year in and year out. And not just in the playoffs but going deep having reached six conference title games and four MLS Cup title games. So what is it that makes the Houston Dynamo the most dangerous team in Major League Soccer in the last two months of the season?
The answer is simple to give but not simple to emulate or replicate. The Houston Dynamo are a team of characters and character and together they balance out a squad of tenacious, relentless and driven individuals that refuse to lose just ask the Montreal Impact and New York Red Bulls who fell by the wayside to the Dynamo.
Yes, it may well be cliché to say the Dynamo refuse to lose but it is more than just words for the men in orange. Winning in September, October and beyond has become a way of life for a franchise now in its ninth season. It is a team that somehow finds the proverbial light switch and flicks it on at just the right time.
“We know what we are capable of. We can play good. We can play ugly and we can win both ways,” explains Dynamo captain Brad Davis We don’t like to lose. We don’t like to be told we can’t do something. We know we can come out and do something special. We believe we will win every time we step on the field.”
Over the last three seasons when the games have meant the most, the Houston Dynamo have ratcheted up the pressure on themselves and their competition carving out a combined regular season September-October record of 11-7-7and finding themselves on the pitch in the playoffs where the most important games of soccer are played come early November.
Expand that to include every season since the inaugural campaign of 2006 and the picture becomes even clearer as to how dangerous Dominic Kinnear’s club is when the season is on the line. With an astounding plus 17 goal differential, his squad (26-14-20) is unbeaten in 76% of its September-October contests since 2006. And that doesn’t even include the playoffs where the team also wins or draws better than 70 percent of their games.
Few teams across all spectrums of sports have been as good at home as the Houston Dynamo. Over the last eight seasons, the team has earned an overall home record of 70-21-36 and set the MLS home unbeaten streak record (36) against all competition and MLS regular season home unbeaten mark (30) and sport a playoff home record of 9-1-2.
As good as the Dynamo have been at home, Houston’s one Achilles heel has been its inability to win on the road well except for September and October. For a franchise with an overall road record of 31-52-44 and a minus 38 goal differential, the team comes alive in the final two months of the season.
Away from the friendly confines of first Robertson Stadium and now BBVA, the team has won or earned a draw in 23 of 32 September-October regular season matches and a plus one goal differential. Take away the franchise’s September-October record and the team fights to break even over eight seasons.
“We can gut games out on the road. We can’t be bullied,” continues Davis. “It’s a lot of fun to be a part of this group. There’s 24 points still on the table. It’s an open race. We can win the championship.”
And that brings us to the most important ingredient (the players) that makes this team a dangerous recipe for opposition teams as the season draws to a close. From one player to the next, the team is poised and confident believing that when the moment calls each player will stand up as needed.
Davis is the heart and soul of a team that believes in itself. So often as he has gone so goes the Dynamo. At one point the most dangerous left foot on a set piece in the MLS had a goal or an assist in eight straight matches. There is nothing that drives this 13 year veteran who plays with the enthusiasm of a child more than the desire to bring another title home to Houston.
“Ultimately, you are judged on how you do at the end of the year,” concludes Davis. “So if you’re the last team to squeak in but you win the MLS Cup who cares. That’s the whole point of the season that’s the way it’s laid out for us. We know where we stand, we don’t want to go home early and that’s the mentality of the group. Our backs are against the wall and we don’t want to go home and be disappointed so we play every game with a chip on our shoulders. We expect to be raising the Cup come the final whistle in December.”
To a man, Kinnear’s squad knows exactly where they stand and what needs to be done. They’ve been here before and it’s little wonder that they are the most feared in team in the Major League Soccer.