Plenty of positives for the Houston Dynamo to take from their victory against Real Salt Lake on Sunday. The team found some attacking success, and with two shutouts in their last two home matches, the defense appears to have found itself recently. Can they do it in Chicago this weekend, and in Vancouver the next? We'll see.
In the meantime, we examine a semi-chance the Dynamo had against RSL that was emblematic of how they played on offense.
The play starts with Sheanon Williams ready to complete a simple throw-in:
Williams—the designated long throw-taker—is pushed up from right back, although it appears to he doesn't have the intention of sending it directly into the box. Alex (14, circled) will be his target.
As indicated by the yellow arrow, Cristian Maidana is pointing toward the box, presumably trying to tell Williams that he wants the throw to go towards the goal. The ball will eventually go in the box, but not yet.
Alex controls it and immediately sees Williams make a run down the right wing. Joao Plata (directly in front of Alex) thinks he is defending the pass back to the thrower, but really he is just standing there making sure adidas doesn't get the ball.
There's plenty of space for Williams to run into down that wing. That often happens on Andrew Wenger's side of the field, because the winger likes to take up positions more centrally when attacking, as seen here. He often frees up gaps for full-backs when he pinches in, which is why Williams is a better fit at right back than Jalil Anibaba, a player who likes to stay at home.
Leonel Miranda is favored by Owen Coyle as a substitute because he opens up the game late on by playing closer to the touchline.
Alex and Williams will look to take advantage of the available space.
The Brazilian midfielder makes the pass to Williams. Maidana opens his legs and lets the ball meg him. He either has eyes in the back of his head or Williams yelled "leave!" Either one.
There are multiple Real Salt Lake players positioned outside the box, defending the central areas more than the cross. By the end of the game, they would learn to defend the cross.
Williams pushes the ball onto his right foot and sets up to put the ball in the box. Ricardo Clark realizes that, and darts into the box. Kyle Beckerman is on his horse as well, chasing Clark to try and make sure the cross from Williams doesn't find his man.
The former Union right back doesn't have any significant pressure from RSL, so he has his choice of whether to put it in the air or on the ground. He chooses the latter.
The cross gets to Giles Barnes, who struggles to deal with the pace of the ball. He will get a slight touch on it, but it will get past him and get to Beckerman. The US-international will have to do something about it.
After seeing the cross go past him, Wenger takes a few steps back and finds a wide open area in the box, ready for any scraps that happen to come.
He finds a very, very appealing scrap.
Beckerman stuck a foot in front of the cross, but only managed to roll it back to the top of the box. It will come directly to the feet of Wenger, whose only reasonable option is to put one on goal.
Wenger takes a shot first-time without much pressure, but smashes it into oblivion. He doesn't come all that close.
It wasn't a bad opportunity. He easily could have put it on target and, maybe, into the net if he hadn't leaned back so much.
The moral of this story is that things happen when the Dynamo put the ball in the box, whether by cross, shot or otherwise. That's how they generated offensive opportunities against RSL, and it's how they can score their goals. They pushed players into the box, kept possession around the area, and put in plenty of crosses, and it was effective. That's what they have to do to continue producing chances.