Coming into a road game with a makeshift defense, putting goals on the board would be at more of a premium more than usual for the Houston Dynamo.

When Tranquillo Barnetta scored just three minutes in for the Philadelphia Union, the Dynamo were unable to recover and ended up losing 2-0 on Sunday night.

While Houston’s short-handed defense struggled, the attack had its weapons and failed to score goals. Down a goal, Houston came out of the half with a good 15 minute spell. But it wasn't enough as their push did not result in a goal.

“I don’t understand why we can’t start the game like that,” said striker Will Bruin. “I don’t understand why we have to wait until we’re down one-nothing to realize ‘oh [expletive] we’ve got to keep the ball and play. It’s frustrating obviously because results aren’t happening. We’ve got five games left and at this rate it’s going to be the offseason for us.”

The club was most dangerous on set pieces in the first half but got few breaks, most notably a first-half David Horst header that ricocheted off the post and right to goalkeeper John McCarthy. That was the closest Houston would get to a goal.

Despite the good start to the second half, C.J. Sapong's goal while emergency right back Boniek García was waiting to re-enter the game made the hill too high to climb.

“For those first 15 minutes of the second half we were terrific. We had them on the back heel. Of course that second goal gives them a little breather or cushion if you want,” head coach Owen Coyle said. “All in all, when all’s said and done, you can’t play for a 15 minute period and think that’s ever going to be enough. This is an elite level. That’s the harsh thing tonight.

“When we have players missing at the back and concede soft goals as we’ve done again then we’re going to have to take chances at the other end and we’ve not done that.”

Houston played the game without starters DaMarcus Beasley (calf injury) and Raúl Rodríguez (yellow card accumulation) while Sheanon Williams moved to his less-favored left back spot – and it showed.

The defense was not compact and struggled to stay with runners. The result was a number of chances from the Union which, if not for three top quality saves from Tyler Deric, would have been up by more.

“We have to cut out individual errors,” Coyle said when asked about the defense. “The boys that step in still need to be ready to man up and get clean sheets to give you a chance to win games.”

Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.