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Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Houston feeling the heat

By Jeff Carlisle

As far as late-season swoons go, Vancouver remains top -- or bottom, depending on how you look at it -- of the heap. The Whitecaps have secured just one point from their past six matches, allowing Dallas to creep within two points of the fifth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

In the Eastern Conference, no team's performance has been quite as dire, but that is of little comfort to the Houston Dynamo, who have gone just 1-3-3 in their past seven matches and now sit in fifth place, just one point ahead of Columbus.

It's a time of year when the fatigue normally associated with playing in the CONCACAF Champions League can be a factor, but Houston manager Dominic Kinnear has gone to great lengths to rotate his squad and spread out his minutes. All the more reason to scratch one's head over Sunday's surprising 3-1 loss to Philadelphia.

"It was a game where, as a team, we had our moments," said Kinnear. "But we had our moments when we were losing. That wasn’t helping us."

As for areas of Houston’s game that need to improve, some focus has been placed on forward Will Bruin, who has scored just once in his past 10 games. But the Houston forward was involved in the buildup to Oscar Boniek Garcia's blast Sunday; for Kinnear, the bigger issues lie in the Dynamo midfield.

"I think we need to be more consistent in possession, and that really means our movement off the ball needs to be better," he said.

Luckily for Kinnear, Houston has caught something of a break in terms of its schedule. Not only are three of the Dynamo's last four games at home, but none of the upcoming matches are against teams currently in the playoff places. Yet Kinnear knows all too well that such a forgiving slate guarantees nothing.

"You can't just say, 'Well, we’re at home,'" he said. "You have to step on the field with the right attitude."