When the Houston Dynamo face the San Jose Earthquakes at home Saturday night, it’ll be the team’s second straight match trying to stave off playoff elimination. But unlike last week, they come into this match with the confidence that a U.S. Open Cup championship brings.
“We’re still excited, and the team’s still feeling it,” Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera said of Wednesday night’s 3-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union, which brought the club its first trophy in 11 years. “But we now definitely have to focus on San Jose. It’s the important game that we have in front of us. After our presentation and our performance [Wednesday] night, we have to confirm that on Saturday.”
Last Saturday, they couldn’t score against Orlando City SC, but the 0-0 draw, coupled with other results around the league, kept their slim playoff hopes alive.
Cabrera is taking encouragement from the team’s Open Cup play especially, noting, “The performance was very solid. Defensively, the team was very good, one of the best performances of the year, not only because we won 3-0, but when you score three goals against a team like Philadelphia, you’re doing really well.”
He added that even though the team has given up a number of goals throughout the season, the back-to-back clean sheets are an indication the team’s defense is gelling. In fact, the Dynamo haven’t allowed a goal in 261 minutes, when they let in a 9th-minute own goal before blazing back to beat the Portland Timbers 4-1 on Sept. 15.
Cabrera did cite recovery as a concern, saying he’d watch how the players practice, rest and eat as the match gets closer. But he also thinks the championship could inspire the team to go on the winning run needed to vault into playoff position.
The players know what’s at stake. As Alejandro Fuenmayor put it, “Saturday’s game is as important as Wednesday’s since we are still fighting to earn a spot in the playoffs. We need to keep fighting.”
“We need to have a short memory,” added defender Kevin Garcia, “and just worry about the next game.”