Yes, the Houston Dynamo has been one of Major League Soccer’s best teams the past few seasons, as shown by that club’s appearance in the last two MLS Cup finals.
And, yes, the Dynamo is particularly strong at home. That was underscored on Sunday, when the Fire was an unwilling participant in Houston hitting the MLS record books. The Dynamo’s 2-1 victory ran Houston’s home unbeaten streak across all competitions to 35 matches and its string without a regular season home loss in MLS competition to 29 matches.
The 35-straight is an MLS record, one better than Real Salt Lake compiled in 2009-2011, and the 29 in a row matched an RSL streak during that same period.
Houston’s talent aside, the Fire’s 1-4-1 start to this season is becoming a major cause of concern. In their 16 seasons the Fire has never had a start this bad. Misery loves company, and Eastern Conference rival D.C. United is also 1-4-1. Plus, the Seattle Sounders--the cellar dweller in the Western Conference--hasn’t won yet (0-3-2).
However, the Fire has allowed more goals (12) than any of the MLS’ 19 teams and its minus-7 goal differential is the worst in the circuit.
Offensively, the trading of striker Dominic Oduro is looking worse and worse. Oduro, sent to the Columbus Crew for midfielder Dilly Duka and the rights to Robbie Rogers, scored his third goal for Columbus in a 1-1 draw at Montreal on Sunday. The Crew (2-1-3) earned a point in one of the most difficult arenas for visiting teams in a match that was delayed 24 hours by a Canadian snowstorm.
Duka has nursed a hamstring problem since starting the first two matches and Rogers apparently is adamant about sticking with his plans to retire. On Saturday Oduro, who requested the trade because didn’t want to be just a reserve in Chicago, and the Crew come to Toyota Park for the first meeting with the Fire this season.
The Fire has but five goals to show for six matches, and only Maicon Santos – a reserve almost entirely so far – has found the net more than once. Sherjill MacDonald, the club’s Designated Player whose presence on the roster was a major factor in the decision to trade Oduro, has yet to score. Chris Rolfe, a steady scorer throughout his long career with the Fire, finally got his first goal on Sunday.
Rolfe’s goal and more great goalkeeping by Sean Johnson weren’t enough to help the Fire standings-wise.
The Dynamo scored first when Brad Davis got away from Fire defender Wells Thompson in the 26th minute and delivered a pass that Will Bruin headed into the net. Rolfe’s goal came off Daniel Paladini’s third assist of the season in the 29th.
Davis’ goal in the 81st minute was the game-winner, and the Fire’s had one great chance after that when Jeff Larentowicz’ header off Joel Lindpere’s free kick caromed off the crossbar.
Klopas called on Patrick Nyarko, Santos and Duka off the bench in hopes of providing some offensive spark, but none could deliver it.
"When you give up two goals it’s difficult," said Klopas. "We did create some chances, and if we score the second goal it changes things. We had a good opportunity to walk away with points. We deserved better, but little things towards the end obviously hurt us."
Injuries were doubtless a big reason for the slow start in the first four games, but there were no players on the pre-game injury list for the Houston match – not even Arne Friedrich, last year’s Fire Defender of the Year, and Alex, the Brazilian midfielder.
Friedrich, who suffered a hamstring injury late in preseason training, hasn’t even dressed for a league match yet. Alex hasn’t played since taking a contusion on his ankle three games ago. Klopas has used six different lineups in the first six matches and it could be seven-for-seven if Friedrich is deemed ready to play against Columbus – the only team to defeat the Fire in its most encouraging preseason.
While the Fire was going down in Houston the latest version of the Chicago Red Stars was making its debut in the new National Women’s Soccer League. The Red Stars settled for a 1-1 draw against Seattle Reign FC in Lisle.