The Houston Dynamo face a tough test on Thursday night, getting past the Seattle Sounders to make it to the MLS Cup. After losing 2-0 to Seattle last week the Dynamo have a hole they will have to climb out of if they want their season to continue. This playoff run has been an eventful one for the team that many people didn’t think would get past their play-in game against Sporting Kansas City.
“We had a pretty successful year and we prepared the same way all year. We are going to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” said Joe Willis about the upcoming Western Conference Championship games against Seattle when Dynamo Theory caught up with him last week. “It’s obviously added pressure and more big in a playoff game but that being said we are trying to look at it as just another game and opportunity to win.”
The team has also had to balance a starting lineup that has been turning over due to injury and suspension. AJ DeLaGarza tore his ACL in the last game of the regular season leaving Houston to go to the bench to fill the right back slot all playoffs long. Tyler Deric, the Dynamo’s starting goalkeeper for much of the season, was suspended by the league at the beginning of November after he was arrested for misdemeanor domestic assault. Willis took over in goal in the middle of the team’s home-and-away series against Portland.
“It’s the life of a goalie. You have to be ready. I have been in the league for seven years and I have seen a lot of crazy different situations happen,” said Willis about finding himself taking on the starting role in the playoffs. “You always have to be prepared whether you are starting or number three. Things can change in an instant and you have to train every day like you are the starter. Then you are ready to go when you get your opportunity.”
Early in the leg one game against Seattle Jalil Anibaba received a red card for DOGSO forcing the Dynamo to play most of the game a man down. Alberth Elis received a yellow card in that game as well and will be serving a suspension for yellow card accumulation in leg 2. Both players will be missing the Thursday night game. But being down a man (or two, or five) doesn’t worry Willis.
“I think it doesn’t really matter who is on the field. As a team we know how we want to play. Everyone has bought into it and is on the same page,” said Willis. “We have a lot of depth at every position and it doesn’t matter who is starting or who is coming off the bench. We have dangerous players and I think defensively we’ve been pretty solid”
Saves from Willis don’t just help the Dynamo win right now. Through the Conference Championships and the MLS Cup Final Allstate will be donating two soccer nets for every save made during the games to a youth team in the city that the team is located in. That means thanks to Willis three saves against Seattle Allstate will be donating three sets of soccer nets to a youth team in the Houston area. Local Allstate owners’ will be working to get the nets installed in the fields that need them the most and Hurricane Harvey there are a lot of team in the Houston area that can really use them.
You can see Joe in action at 9:30 pm CT on Thursday night.