1) This was an important win. The team needs wins against Western Conference opponents, and needs to show it can consistently put together positive results. The Dynamo scored on set pieces, on the counter attack, and with extended possession in the final 3rd which are pretty much every way you can attack a team,
2) This defensive unit is really good and it's keeping one of its best defenders, Kofi Sarkodie, on the bench. David Horst, Jermaine Taylor, and Raúl Rodríguez are all excellent at defending the ball in the air. This limits opponent's effectiveness to counter attacks and technical play out wide where they are met by Rodríguez and Beasley, both of whom are excellent technical/1v1 defenders. Horst and Taylor centrally are complemented by Clark and Garrido's pairing in front of them which makes this team very difficult to break down from all angles.
3) This team suddenly looks more complete on both ends of the ball. Offensively, we have scored 16 goals, 1 fewer than the two teams in front of us (Dallas and Seattle have 17) and we've shored things up considerably since our games against SKC and Dallas.
Houston Dynamo Player Ratings:
Tyler Deric (5.5) - The Dynamo defense has made things a bit easier on Deric by not forcing him to make a lot of difficult saves. In this game, Deric only recorded a single save, but he may have been able to save the Timbers' lone goal against Houston as it appeared that Deric got a hand on the ball and the shot was taken in a difficult area. Deric had a nervous moment in the 28th minute as a poor ball back to him led to a late clearance as it appeared Deric didn't see his offensive opponent running at the ball.
Raúl Rodríguez (7) - Rodríguez filled in at right back again for Kofi Sarkodie and played another great match as he was able to consistently use his intelligent positioning to intercept balls on the ground and win aerial duels to keep things neat in the back. Rodríguez had a shaky moment in the 34th minute where he failed to mark his side, but the effort was defended well by his teammates as the effort went out for a goal kick.
Jermaine Taylor (7.5) - I know, I'm surprised by the rating as well. For all the few things that Taylor has done poorly, he does so many more right. What frustrates me is he'll intercept a pass by running down a player and correctly guessing where the ball is going and then he'll turn it over after such a good effort to win the ball. Taylor had 2 tackles, 2 blocked shots, 5 aerials won, 8 intercepted passes, 7 clearances, 75% passing accuracy (decent for a CB), and a brilliant assist to set up Will Bruin for the final goal of the game (which bumped my rating of his up half a point). Say what you want about Taylor's performances overall, but he had a solid game against Portland.
David Horst (6.5) - While Taylor gobbles up passes that come his way, Horst prefers the "clear first" method which largely proves effective for the team. Horst had a few errant passes which sparked counter attacks by Portland, but Horst also made a pair of beautiful sweeping tackles and kept the air clear with 4 won aerial duels. Horst nearly headed home a goal following a play on a corner kick, but his headed effort went over the top despite great service.
DaMarcus Beasley (6) - Defensively, DaMarcus Beasley has looked sharper, though he was hardly a liability. Beasley may have been able to defend better against Fanendo Adi on the Timber's goal, but Beasley did a lot of work on the offensive side of the ball. Besides his dangerous runs (one of which he was fouled on earning Jack Jewsbury a yellow setting up Will Bruin's disallowed goal), he passed the ball very well in short spaces and he spaced the field out which gave the Dynamo room to operate their offense.
Luis Garrido (7) - Garrido was definitely fouled on the play that set up the Timber's goal, but we saw something that we haven't seen from Garrido before: his speed and movement in the offense. In the 65th minute, Garrido stopped and spun away Diego Chara and burst into the midfield and found Boniek Garcia who placed a perfect ball to Barnes, but his header was over the top of the crossbar. Garrido paired very well with Clark again in the central midfield as the two continue to work well off each other: one player commits to a challenge and forces a player to go one way, and the other cleans it up (if necessary).
Ricardo Clark (6.5) - Clark was able to find his presence in the offense by helping the ball move horizontally into space for the Dynamo. Clark's speed, dribbling abilities, and long legs got him fouled in a dangerous position, just outside of the 18 yard box in the 55th minute. Defensively, Clark hovered around the center circle and stopped Portland and jump started counter attacks.
Oscar Boniek Garcia (6.5) - Last week I was a little critical of Boniek's defense and he stepped up by tracking back to help more and notching a couple of good tackles. Most importantly, Boniek is contributing on the offensive end in very positive ways. I already mentioned his perfectly weighted pass to Barnes as both players were on the run, but he had another brilliant pass just a few minutes after his laser to Barnes. The Dynamo played a short corner (I still hate short corners even though this was a well designed play) and Boniek sent in a great ball to find David Horst, but the header went over the top.
Brad Davis (7) - Davis is climbing his way up the assist ladder as he currently sits in 6th place overall for assists this season. This team's style of play really is reactionary based on the kind of team we're playing with a few surprises thrown in, but the one consistency for the team's offense has been set piece dominance. Brad Davis delivered a perfect ball to a wide open Will Bruin in the 9th minute to set the tone early that this was our game to lose. Davis had 4 key passes overall and combined well with those around him to keep the offense and ball moving.
Giles Barnes (7) - Apart from a mid-game rally by the Portland Timbers, Barnes was an offensive focal point for the Dynamo as his combination of speed, dribbling abilities, and diverse shot selection made him difficult for Portland to defend. Barnes made a great run with the ball early in the game, but was fouled which set up the dead ball opportunity that opened up the scoring for Houston. Barnes's goal was really a "no you shoot it, no you shoot it" between Alex Lopez and himself, but his shot was pretty difficult between two defenders and on the goalkeeper's nearside and it helped put the Dynamo up 2-1. Barnes could have been shown a red card for his unsporting behavior and altercation following a poor challenge, but was spared with just a yellow.
Will Bruin, MotM, (8) - Bruin is now only 2 goals behind Giles Barnes, who is 4th in scoring in MLS, in scoring for the Dynamo this season despite playing significantly fewer minutes than Barnes. Bruin is opening up space for Barnes and teammates out wide by drawing defenders in and he's being rewarded with great service. Bruin didn't hesitate on Davis's perfect delivery early in the game and Bruin took advantage of a perfect Jermaine Taylor pass and an unaware Nat Borchers to chip Timber's goalkeeper Adam Larsen Kwarasey. Let me repeat that Bruin doubters: Will Bruin CHIPPED the keeper, and it was beautiful.
Alex Lopez (6.5) - Despite playing well at LM while Brad Davis was injured, the Honduran returned to the bench. Coyle discussed in the post game press conference that he really admired the way that Lopez used the opportunity to play well in Davis's absence and how he played well in practice even though he knew he would return to the bench. That's a great attitude to have. In the game, Lopez didn't see a lot of the ball, but he rarely turned it over and he often got it in dangerous positions. Lopez could've had a goal for himself, but settled for an assist as he took perhaps too long to control the ball and had to return it back to Giles Barnes who promptly scored the go-ahead goal.
Rob Lovejoy (N/A) - Came on as a stoppage time sub and didn't have any touches on the ball.
Coach Owen Coyle (7.5) - This was an important win for the Dynamo as they notched back to back wins for the first time since last August (so a little after our DMB/Garrido signings). Coyle stuck with the formation and squad that won in Toronto with the exception of putting Brad Davis into the lineup. He was conservative with his substitutions, probably thinking about how we nearly had to play a man down against TFC, and made the correct subs (Lopez on for Boniek to push the right side more, and Lovejoy on for Bruin to kill time).