Andrew Dykstra experienced a number of career firsts in last Saturday’s win in the nation’s capital.
First big save, first win, first shutout, first assist?
The first three categories are welcome stats for a second-year keeper looking to win over fans bitter in the wake of Jon Busch’s preseason dismissal.
The assist however is all gravy.
“We were trying to waste some time late against D.C.,” said Dykstra. “The previous play I tried to play Brian in the corner and I mishit it. I don’t know why but the next play he went up the middle and C.J. [Brown] turned to me, gave me a wink and said, ‘hit it to Brian’. I did, he flicked it in and I was ecstatic after that because I knew we certainly locked the game up there.”
The helper indeed put United out to pasture and at the same time, Dykstra became the first Fire goalkeeper in almost four years to record an assist. Zach Thornton, the club’s longtime leader in most goalkeeping categories last tallied on June 28, 2006 in a 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake.
The stars seemed to align in what was a homecoming of sorts for the Woodbridge, VA product. About 100 friends and family bought tickets to the match and witnessed Dykstra’s strongest, most confident showing of the season.
“It was nice to win after not having the greatest start. I know that a lot of people have been looking at me and Carlos especially and the decisions he’s made on the field with the team. Definitely the win took a little pressure off and I was able to stay at home and soak in the whole experience a bit. It was a huge mental hurdle for me but as soon as it was over I shifted focus towards preparation for Houston.”
Saturday’s match against the two-time MLS Cup champions has the makings of an intriguing affair. In four previous meetings at Toyota Park, Houston has yet to fall in defeat, boasting a 3-0-1 record since 2006. With that said, this is not the Dynamo of old.
Gone to Europe are U.S. National Team midfielders Ricardo Clark and Stuart Holden. Another U.S. international, Brian Ching, suffered a hamstring injury in the club’s second match of the season against Real Salt Lake. Despite the losses, the Dynamo have shown evidence of their depth, coming into the match on the seven points, tied for second in the Western Conference.
It was a preseason match against this same Houston club that Dykstra impressed enough to gain the starting role. As this game counts, Dykstra will hope to add home win to what will be a season full of firsts.
“Houston is a very direct team. Very physical, very fast and they’re going to get after us. It’s not like we really need to change what we do to accommodate them, we just have to be tuned in and focused on what we’re doing and make sure that’s right. My performance against them in March was one of my better games in a while and I think that’s why I’m playing now. Houston’s kind of the reason I am where I am and having them see me in preseason, I think they realize that I’m not just another rookie goalkeeper. I’m looking forward to the challenge and ready to get on with the game.”