Although the MLS regular season is barely past the halfway mark, Saturday's match between the Dynamo and the Columbus Crew at BBVA Compass Stadium was a must-win.
And even though the visiting Crew outshot and -- for long stretches in the second half -- outplayed the Dynamo, the Orange still managed a comfortable 3-1 win.
Here are five tidbits Hair Balls took from the Dynamo's win.
5. Bruin returns from Gold Cup
Inconspicuous in the Dynamo lineup the past few weeks was forward Will Bruin, who was with the US Men's National Team that won the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Now Bruin didn't get any minutes in the tournament, but sitting on the bench left the Dynamo striker wanting more.
"To sit on the bench over there at the Gold Cup kind of made me hungry to get back on the field and play," Bruin said after the match.
His return paid dividends in the 31st minute. After Boniek Garcia stole the ball and broke on the counter, he found Bruin making a run along the left side. Bruin cut the ball back to the center of the pitch to avoid the defender, and placed a low shot to the far post for the goal. The goal -- which was the second of the match -- wound up being the game winner.
4. Defense had its issues with Crew's Higuain
The Crew have a knack for finding Argentine playmakers. First they brought in the legendary Guillermo Barros-Schelotto, and now they have Federico Higuain.
Higuain's field vision and precise passing gave the Dynamo's backline fits all game. On a night with better finishing, the Crew leave BBVA Compass Stadium with points in hand. Unfortunately for the Argentine, the plethora of chances he created for his teammates never came to fruition.
In fact, the only reason the Crew got on the scoreboard was because of a Dynamo own goal by Kofi Sarkodie.
And why is Higuain's name familiar? He's the brother of Gonzalo Higuain, mainstay on Argentina's national team and striker for Napoli of the Italian Serie A.
3. Weaver to the rescue
The own goal made it a one-score game, and the Crew were knocking on the door for more. Just minutes after the goal, the Crew missed a golden opportunity from near-point-blank to even the match. That prompted Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear to make a change at forward.
He brought in Cam Weaver, who immediately made his mark. In the 85th minute, Gacia sent a cross from the wing into the top of the box. Bruin laid the pass off perfectly to Weaver, who blasted his shot into goal. With the score now 3-1 and 15 minutes left in the match, the Dynamo were able to go on cruise control for the remainder of the match.2. Playoff picture
The Dynamo put great emphasis on getting a "W" against this young Crew side. The win puts the Dynamo in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 33 points. That's three points ahead of sixth-place New England and a point behind fourth-place Philly. More remarkable, they are only five points behind first-place New York Red Bulls, who sit atop the East with 38 points.
Fortunately for the Orange, they have two games in-hand on the Red Bulls. Conceivably, they could win the two matches and climb to the top spot -- not just the East, but the entire league.
As we know, the team with the overall highest point total in MLS wins the Supporters' Shield, automatic entry in the CONCACAF Champions League, and home-field advantage throughout the entire MLS Cup Playoff run.
1. Dempsey back in MLS
The Seattle Sounders announced Saturday night that they had bought Nacogdoches native Clint Dempsey from Tottenham Hotspurs of the EPL, and are signing him as a Designated Player.
The controversial move is seen as a big deal because most Americans strive to prove themselves in European football during the prime of their careers. Dempsey, while coming off a disappointing first season with Spurs, was considered the U.S.'s best attacking weapon.
Some critics praise the Sounders for raising the value of MLS's stock with the Dempsey signing, who have ambitious goals of being one of world's premiere soccer leagues by 2022. Others say it contradicts the US National Team philosophy, in which head coach Jürgen Klinsmann often pushes players to test themselves in Europe.
Here's Hair Balls' take...
Short-term, there's no question that Dempsey's game might slip. He goes from playing in London rivalries against Chelsea and Arsenal to playing in the Cascadia Rivalry against the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps.
But what about long-term? What if MLS could keep more American players from leaving for Europe? How much better would the Dynamo be if Stuart Holden and Geoff Cameron had never left, and added fellow Texan Jose Francisco Torres? How would the Red Bulls look with an attacking duo of Jozy Altidore and Thierry Henry?
What if Jonathan Bornstein and Sacha Kljestan never left Chivas USA? Well, owner Jorge Vergara would have sold them off this past off-season because they weren't Latin-American -- that we do know.
But the one example we do have is in Los Angeles, where Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzales stayed to play with David Beckham and Robbie Keane, forming the nucleus of the back-to-back MLS Cup champions.
If MLS were able to reach its goal by 2022, that in itself would strengthen the U.S. squad, more so than having its players play on C-list squads in the EPL or the German Bundesliga. Let's face it, Dempsey wasn't playing for Man U or Barcelona, and was about to see his minutes dwindle in Tottenham. The only case where it makes sense for a player to leave the U.S. is Michael Bradley, who took his talents to AS Roma, and Dempsey isn't playing there.
Oh...and by the way, Dempsey and his new-look Sounders come to BBVA on August 17.
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