1) Few defensive options forced Cochran to LB and that saw mixed results. Cochran's tackling abilities helped win the ball at times, but his lack of pace and experience was visible on several occasions. But do you put Rodríguez at LB and Cochran inside to deal with Plata and Morales? Pick your poison I suppose.
2) Rimando was huge for RSL. His 4 saves helped keep the Dynamo off the score sheet until Davis's penalty strike, but this game could have been very different if Rimando didn't have such a huge day.
3) Coyle was determined to ride the confidence his players were feeling after their win over Vancouver, but I feel a different formation may have lent itself to a better outcome. If the Dynamo utilized a 4-5-1 to clog the midfield, RSL's forward group (of 3 players with Morales behind them) would have been less influential.
4) This result sucks.
Houston Dynamo Player Ratings:
Tyler Deric (6.5) - It's hard to fault Deric on any of the goals since there is plenty of blame on the defenders in front of him and the goals themselves were difficult to save and sometimes a little bizarre, but if I had to nitpick Deric arguably could have saved the final RSL goal - though it was hit with a ton of pace and was taken close enough for the shooter, Juan Manuel Martinez, to take aim and pick out a difficult spot. Deric made 4 huge saves throughout the game which kept the Dynamo in the game until Martinez's goal finished off the Dynamo.
AJ Cochran (6) - Cochran filled in at left back while DaMarcus Beasley sat out recovering from a nagging calf injury. Cochran is a center back by nature, but performed capably at LB in the Dynamo's 3-0 win over the LA Galaxy earlier this year. Defensively, Cochran largely stepped up to the difficult task of containing some of the quicker and technically gifted opponents as he was able to make 4 tackles, block a shot, and intercept the ball twice all while being dominant in the air. However, at times RSL's top-heavy formation proved difficult to pick out markers and Cochran's inexperience at the position was noticeable - specifically on Martinez's final goal in which Cochran is out of position which allows the run and goal to occur. Cochran tried to make an impact on the offensive side of the ball, but a lot of that looked clunky as his lack of pace and passing abilities made it difficult for him to contribute, though Cochran was able to fire off a few shots of his own.
Raúl Rodríguez, MotM, (7) - Had the difficult task of being the general of the back that had to contain a talented 3 pronged forward lineup that RSL sent out with Javier Morales supplying the forwards with dangerous passes. Rodríguez was able to come up with 4 big tackles, 4 intercepted passes, 2 blocked shots, and made very smart decisions with the ball out of the back which prevented turnovers in dangerous areas. Rodríguez's yellow card will see him miss out this weekend against the Philadelphia Union.
David Horst (6) - Horst's biggest contribution to the Dynamo back was winning possession inside the Dynamo 6 yard box by stealing the ball and winning aerial challenges. Horst largely remained back and seldom moved up the field in order to match up against Devon Sandoval and other players that could breakaway.
Sheanon Williams (4) - Williams played a very good game as he managed 2 tackles, 5 intercepted passes, and a blocked shot while remaining a threat moving up the field with his dangerous vision for crosses and his long throw-in. If it weren't for 2 mistakes by Williams, the Dynamo may have been able to see this one out. As pointed out in our "Dynamo Film Session" (which will be up later this morning), Williams failed to mark Martinez which set up the first goal. Then he's too far central to cover Martinez which forces another Deric save which would fall to Sandoval who converted the effort to put RSL up 2-0.
Nathan Sturgis (6) - Got the start in central midfield/holding midfield as Alex Lima picked up an injury in training and Luis Garrido picked up a hamstring injury with the Honduran National Team. Sturgis turned in another under the radar performance as he quietly recovered the ball all over central midfield and showed up to provide tackling in crucial areas to prevent crosses from being sent in. Sturgis did turn the ball over inside our half of the field too often for my liking, but overall it was a pretty decent showing for the Sturge.
Ricardo Clark (6.5) - Clark was the best player for the Dynamo in the first half of the game as he was the only player to get a shot on target in the first half which was a close range effort 1v1 vs. GK Nick Rimando, but his decision to go near post instead of far post let him down and resulted in a difficult reaction save by Rimando. Clark also led all players in intercepted passes and often dueled central midfielder Kyle Beckerman (which often led to a turnover by Beckerman or a quick pass away from Clark). Clark didn't have the best passing accuracy one of his turnovers would eventually lead to Real Salt Lake's opening goal.
Brad Davis (6.5) - Started the game again at right midfield while Giles Barnes took to the left side, Davis helped spark the Dynamo's run early in the 2nd half after giving up a soft goal before halftime. Just seconds into the 2nd half Davis received a great cross from Barnes and headed it towards goal. The headed effort was not placed particularly well, but it forced a difficult reaction save from Rimando. 10 minutes later Davis would be back, this time stepping up to the penalty spot. Rimando tried "icing Davis" by drawing out time by moving the ball, getting water, and not acknowledging the center official, but Davis delivered one of his best penalty kick strikes into the upper left of the goal which Rimando had no chance of saving.
Giles Barnes (5.5) - Barnes passed the ball accurately at 90.9%, but didn't see a lot of the ball for a player that began the game as a right midfielder. Barnes only managed 26 touches on the ball and played the full 90 minutes. By contrast, Boniek Garcia had 22 touches on the ball and only played 45 minutes at RM in the 2nd half. Barnes delivered several dangerous passes in including the cross mentioned in Davis's rating that nearly equalized the game for the Dynamo just seconds into the 2nd half. However, it's clear that Barnes looked a little weary from travel with the Jamaican National Team and a little rest could do wonders for the striker/midfielder who is looking to regain his pre-Gold Cup form.
Erick Torres (4.5) - Cubo is struggling to integrate into this squad more than anticipated. He could have been tired from time with the Mexican U-22 side, but Cubo never looked in sync with players around him. Bruin often had to tell Cubo where to position himself for balls and he struggled to get others and himself in situations to score. Cubo only played the first 45 minutes and reportedly left the match with a groin injury.
Will Bruin (6) - Bruin struggled to connect with his striking partner Cubo, but he did look good in combination with other midfielders. Bruin had a great chance in the first half, but the ball on his breakaway got caught under his feet. The play should have ended there, but Bruin made something from his failed attempt and played the ball across the top of the 18 yard box to set up players running in. What impressed me about Bruin was his passion and energy in the game as he constantly pressured Rimando and was even carded for his aggressiveness while challenging Rimando for a ball that was played back to the RSL keeper. However, his 2nd half performance dipped as fatigue along with lower moral and service all hit the team hard after RSL's 3rd goal.
Oscar Boniek Garcia (5.5) - Came on for Cubo to start the 2nd half, Boniek provided a number of key passes and quick passing out wide, but his crossing service didn't look as accurate as it could have been and defensively Boniek didn't seem sharp.
Mauro Manotas (N/A) - Came on for AJ Cochran in the 80th minute to give life to the offense, but too few touches hurt the young striker's ability to impact the game.
Coach Owen Coyle (5) - This was a must win game at home and things did not go quite as designed by Coyle who utilized a similar lineup that had bested the top team in the West, the Vancouver Whitecaps. While two-thirds of the goals were soft and unlucky following saves by Tyler Deric, the team turned off at times defensively all over the field which allowed Salt Lake to control the midfield to set up their several forwards. The team did generate offense and chances of their own, but big saves by Rimando kept the Dynamo out until Davis's penalty.