That was ugly.
It was a scrappy, physical, low-scoring game between the Houston Dynamo and Chicago Fire on Saturday and one that was hard to watch for neutrals, Fire fans, and Dynamo fans alike. It finished 1-0, with a third-minute Arturo Alvarez tap the difference.
Another road loss for the Dynamo, who continue to fall deep into the depths of the Western Conference standings. They are now seven points out of a playoff spot, a very difficult deficit to overcome. The (sort of) good news for Houston is that they are right alongside defending champions Portland, who are just a point ahead of the Orange.
Here are some key points from the Dynamo vs. Fire match:
1. Offensive effectiveness
I went into this game preaching patience, saying the Dynamo needed to be able to break the Fire down with good passing and possession in order to create chances. They were unable to do that and thus produced basically nothing in terms of attacking opportunities.
Houston just seemed out of it for a lot of the game. They didn't even try to threaten Chicago's defense, finishing with just 10 shots despite dominating the possession battle. They didn't make many incisive runs or try any through-balls or send in any crosses. Overall, it was a flat performance.
The Dynamo looked like they would do something all game. They spent most of the match in the attacking half—in fact, they completed 66 percent of their passes in that area—and finished with 63 percent possession. But too often, they were too slow or too hasty or made a bad decision in a crucial area. It wasn't without opportunities:
That's a map of all their passes in the attacking half. That's a lot of passes.
But none of them appeared to genuinely threaten the Fire defense. Granted, Chicago were packed in tight for most of the game and made themselves impossible to break down, but the Dynamo didn't even try to get anything past them.
I'm not really sure why Houston were this, say, off. Whatever it was, it was bad, and it resulted in yet another bad loss.
This play sums up the game pretty well:
Leonel Miranda has a perfect opportunity to put in a cross, but waits too long and the attack ends up petering out. Plays like that were regular occurrences.
2. Defensive difficulties
The Dynamo only allowed one goal, but the defense often played like they were going to allow more. Multiple times during the game, players like Kennedy Ignoananike and Gilberto dribbled straight through the Dynamo midfield and defense, finding good shots and creating chances that easily could have resulted in goals.
Alex didn't play as well as he had in previous games, and with neither him or Ricardo Clark consistently sitting in front of the defense, Chicago was able to create opportunities by getting players in the space between the midfield and the defense. Bad turnovers by the Dynamo didn't help matters.
Without a couple nice saves by Tyler Deric and some bad finishing by the Fire, this game could have finished worse than 1-0.
Instances like this were way too commonplace for Houston:
A bad turnover by Sheanon Williams, a quick ball forward by the Fire, and Gilberto running straight through the defense. That's bad from the Dynamo.
They have to prevent things like that happening. That means more compactness between the midfield and backline, more organization, and better protection of the ball. A better team would have blown out Houston in this game.
DaMarcus Beasley took full responsibility for the loss:
I take all responsibility for today's loss! I shouldn't have played period.. I let my teammates n fans down n there is no excuse. #100%onme— DaMarcus Beasley (@DaMarcusBeasley) May 22, 2016
I like the humbleness, but there is no way that this loss can be pinned on him. First of all, the coaching staff should never have let him play to begin with—definitely a failure from Owen Coyle and co.—and second of all, he was subbed out in the 13th-minute. He couldn't have done much damage in that tiny cameo.
Yes, the goal was his fault. But the goal came in the third-minute. His team had plenty of time to avenge it.