HOUSTON – Philippe Senderos is listed as a centerback on the Houston Dynamo depth chart, but one could easily mistake him for a center forward the way he has been scoring lately.
Senderos scored a brace — the first in his career — in front of 13,947 Dynamo faithful Saturday against Minnesota United FC, helping Houston (7-6-4, 25 points) prevail 3-0 and extend its unbeaten home streak to eight games across all competitions.
After scoring a game-tying goal during stoppage time Tuesday against LAFC, Senderos picked up where he left off. And the Swiss defender’s first goal was eerily similar to that previous game-tying goal.
It started with DaMarcus Beasley sending a cross from the left wing that was cleared by the Loons, resulting in a corner kick. Romell Quioto whipped in a corner that Alberth Elis headed back across goal. Senderos, ever the opportunist, pounced on it, smashing it into the back of the net.
Senderos second goal of the night came minutes after the second half got underway, and, once again, it came off a corner kick. Quioto swung his corner kick into the box, where Senderos was waiting. The Swiss defender and three-time World Cup participant headed it to the back of the net for his fourth goal of the season.
The goal puts Senderos tied for third on the Dynamo scoring list this season, trailing Mauro Manotas and Alberth Elis, who each have nine on the season.
Could Senderos be considered as a target forward in future Houston Dynamo games?
“I’ll stay in my job which is keeping goals off and organizing the team in the back,” Senderos said. “If I can help out in set pieces I will. But I know my job.”
Senderos, however, did have a hat-trick on his mind. Late in the game, Houston had a corner kick, and Senderos opted to stay back this time. The fans, however, had other things in mind. Those in attendance urged Senderos to go forward and the centerback complied.
“I didn’t really hear them, I was tired by that point,” Senderos said laughingly. “But then I thought about it and thought I could get a hat-trick. Those kinds of opportunities you only have once or so in your career so I went forward.”
Senderos didn’t get his hat-trick but the defender was crucial to helping the Orange get a clean sheet. Something that Senderos — along with the home win — said was the most important outcome of the game.
After Senderos’ second goal, the Orange cruised to victory as Minnesota United FC (6-11-1, 19 points) never posed any real threat. Minnesota got out on the front foot and in the first 10 minutes looked set to score.
Their best opportunity came in the 8th minute when Loons striker Christian Ramirez found himself on a 1-v-1 with Dynamo ‘keeper Joe Willis, but Willis prevailed to preserve the 0-0 score at the time. From then on, the Dynamo took control of the game.
Minnesota would only manage five shots for the game, but only one was on target. That lone shot being Ramirez’s effort in the 8th.
“We knew that they’ve [Minnesota United FC] been playing really well. And Darwin [Quintero] is a very talented player. It’s no secret so we needed to do a good job on him,” Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera said. “Today the whole team was very solid, starting with Joe in goal. He was very sharp when he had to be sharp.”
Despite being up two goals, the Dynamo didn’t put the brakes on. The Orange were relentless in trying to add a third goal and were rewarded for their efforts in the 91st minute when a loose ball fell to Elis, who shot it past Loons ‘keeper Bobby Shuttleworth.
Cabrera added that “little by little” Houston started to take over the game and were getting stronger “minute by minute.”
The win propels Houston above the playoff life in a crowded Western Conference.
“We’re making progress as a team and hopefully moving up the table a bit,” Joe Willis said. “These are some important points at this time in the season. The summers tend to drag on so when you can pick up three points it can really benefit you come October.”
Houston’s attention now shifts towards the road and towards the Colorado Rapids.