The Houston Dynamo official website released a baffling article Thursday night in a valiant yet floundering attempt to calm the nerves of anxious fans.
With just three points from their last six matches, including a whopping zero wins, the article claims winless slumps are “to be expected in parity-driven MLS.”
While yes, the top division of American soccer is different than most in its quest for competitive balance, to justify winless streaks in the dog days of the season as “expected” is diluting the value of each match the Dynamo play.
The article begins by pointing to the MLS form guide, claiming it looks like a smattering of pizza toppings thanks to the mixture of color-coded results. While the “anything can happen” point is understood, here’s another form guide that displays the same varying array of colors. Know what that’s from? That’s the results list from the last season of the Barclays Premier League, which is about the farthest from parity a league can get.
If there’s one thing for sure in the world of any top-level sport, it’s this: results may vary. But to dismiss a poor streak of results as “expected” is suggesting that the Dynamo’s recent scorelines are a random generation of binary code based on a statistical formula, and that because of the law of averages it should return to normal any day now.
Sorry, that’s incorrect. The Dynamo have found themselves in the midst of a slump for other on-the-pitch reasons. They’ve got two goals during their six-game winless streak thanks to abysmal finishing. Injuries and suspensions are abound. Dominic Kinnear has hardly been able to maintain a relatively stable starting eleven.
The article points to both 2012 and 2011 as blueprints for late runs after winless streaks. While both those seasons did see an uptick in form later on, there are still some ominous signs why this year may be different.
In 2012, the game that put the lid on their 5-match winless streak was a 4-0 win against D.C. United, leading the squad to make a run for the playoffs. Unfortunately for Houston, this season’s 4-0 win over D.C. United on May 8 was the precursor to their slide – they haven’t won since.
The article cites 2011, where a 7-match winless streak was turned around and became four wins and a draw in the last 5 matches of the season, pushing the club all the way up to second place.
The problem with that is the 2011 Eastern Conference was a mess. The point totals in the East were all out of whack thanks to each team beating up on the next. It was easy to jump all the way up to second place with a bit of a run towards the end. In fact, the final two wins of the season jumped Houston from fifth all the way up to second.
Unfortunately, this year isn’t going to be the same.
Houston already sits in fifth place, 9 back of Montreal. It’s true, they’re only 2 measly points back of second place (somehow), marking what could be a jump identical to 2011’s late-season surge.
What’s not the same is the upcoming schedule.
Here’s Houston’s next nine matches: @ New York, vs. Philadelphia, @ New England, vs. Chicago, vs. Columbus, @ Salt Lake, vs. Seattle, @ Montreal, @ Chicago. Ouch.
Mixed in that melting pot of fixtures are two dates with the surging Fighting Mike Magees, a visit to the Juan Agudelo redemption show, a shot at Jack McInerney, and a trip to the best team in the East who have dropped 2 points at home all year.
Oh, I almost forgot, a flight to New York who have lost 3 straight and yet still sit in second place, and a visit from the often explosive Seattle Sounders.
Houston have to play every single team in front of them in the Eastern Conference in that stretch. The only teams Houston play behind them in the standings are either red hot or Columbus. Talk about gut check time.
Finally, don’t forget about the Gold Cup, which will snatch up co-leading scorer Will Bruin and defender Corey Ashe who has the second-most minutes played of any outfield player with Houston this season. Those two could be gone potentially the entirety of July. Omar Cummings better be 100% or Houston will be very thin up front.
It’s a very fun race in the Eastern Conference, but with clubs like Chicago and New England finding their stride, it seems Houston may be the odd team out.