I spent a good portion of my day today trying to figure out just how I wanted to write about this match. What aspects did I want to focus on? Were there any tidbits I thought might be useful to the Dynamo Theory readership? And here I am at 9:24PM looking at the clock and wondering where in the hell the day went. As I think back over the match, one phrase echoes in my mind.
"Keep it simple, stupid."
On Friday, the Houston Dynamo spent the better part of the first and second halves trying to ignore the simple. The beauty in the simple is everything flows in a definite pattern. When complication is interspersed, it only serves to confuse and I do not refer only to the opposition. The team got away from it's bread and butter, simplicity. While there is a time and a place for creativity, this was not one of them. And the Dynamo paid for their lack of simplicity in numerous facets of the game by eking out only a draw against primed and ready Sporting Kansas City. More of my thoughts after the jump.There were repeated moments in the game when I had to rub my temples due to the headache which the team seemed to be causing. Every time they would attempt a build-up, it would stall in one place or another due to something cutesie no matter whether it was a through ball which was fed into too tight of a hole or a player trying to do too much in front of the goal. Even Goalkeepers Coach, Tim Hanley, alluded to it at halftime.
In a game where the Dynamo needed simplicity, a game where Head Coach Dominic Kinnear was forced to the media booth and unable to give instructions to his team, the team opted for cute movement, cute footwork, and cute defending. It was that very cute defending that caught Andre Hainault missing a clearing header in the box giving CJ Sapong a clear headed opportunity at goal in the dying moments of stoppage time to draw even.
It was the same cute play which saw Will Bruin miss multiple chances in front of the goal in one v one situations against only Jimy Nielsen. And it was the cute footwork which saw multiple players lose possession with multiple defenders playing awfully high up the pitch, allowing for repeated breakaways and mismatches by SKC and leaving the undisputed Man of the Match, Tally Hall, on an island.
Sure, Hall came up huge time and time again. He made saves which could easily end up as Saves of the Week or hell, Save of the Year. But when it mattered most, his defense left him high and dry, and the Dynamo succumbed to the constant pressure SKC had applied. I still sincerely believe had Hainault held tight marking to his man as he had since he was subbed in earlier in the half for Corey Ashe, he would have easily cleared the ball and this post-match would be very different.
You may have taken notice I haven't really mentioned the officiating. Well, I have to be completely honest. I wasn't appalled by the officiating. Certainly, it reeked of the usual MLS quality -- which is to say there was no quality in it, but for a reason unbeknownst to me the officiating was quite consistent and fair. There were plenty of missed calls both ways, but for the first time I can remember, my favorite official to ride like a donkey pinata was actually decent. He didn't make himself the focal point of the game.
He basically sat back and let the game happen. He let the teams play, and I can't believe I'm going to say this, but he was about as good as any MLS official I've seen to date. There were reckless challenges which went uncalled, and a scuffle which should have been dealt with better, but he kept his cards mostly in his pocket. He didn't really change the game, for better or for worse. And for once, I have to applaud Baldomero Toledo for a game officiated where I actually want to thank him for the way he officiated.
Quite the change of pace, huh? I'm still kind of shocked myself. It was not what I expected once I read his name in the officials list. But I digress, the Dynamo had three points well in hand, and had weathered everything SKC had thrown at them. Their cuteness had managed to stay the lead, and somehow they had managed to curb the tide of the SKC pressure. There were close calls, far too many to reflect on individually, but they stemmed the tide. They were winning the battle and the war.
And then, in one fell swoop, the cross came in, Hainault was marking too loosely and missed the clearing header, and Sapong found the net. The Dynamo went from three points to one point. And even still, I was willing to accept this as a victory for the team. Sporting Kansas City are nothing to laugh at. They are a team in first place in a conference which nobody expected to be as competitive as it has been. They have maintained an excellent home record in Live Strong Park, and when healthy, their backline has racked up an incredible 22-2-7 record.
So, my hat goes off to the Dynamo and to SKC. It was a hard fought match, and one which I truly believe both teams deserved the draw. I just hope we get another shot at them come the playoffs. We don't quickly forget...and hopefully Corey Ashe won't quickly forget Kei Kamara's need to get in his face. I love me some passion, and THAT was passion.