Before we get into the Dynamo game, we have to quickly address the Messi situation. Lionel Messi, the best player in the history of the beautiful game, retired from international play after Argentina lost their third straight major final. Some have said he will likely overturn the decision, having done it in haste, but I am genuinely concerned that this a permanent retirement because Javier Mascherano, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Angel Di Maria, Ever Banega, and Lucas Biglia have been rumored to be retiring as well.
The Argentina FA is currently a tire fire, and it looks like their team is going to be as well. It really is unfortunate, because we are going to be robbed of seeing these incredible players on the biggest stage in the world. Messi and his team deserve to win something, and I hope they will get the opportunity to do that in the future.
Idiot American sports talk people (like Colin Cowherd, Stephen A. Smith, Skip Bayless, Mike & Mike, and so many others) will say Messi's "legacy is tarnished" because he didn't win a major international tournament. That statement is utterly and completely false, and to think that a player with the extreme talent and skill like Messi — who, by the way, has won a ridiculous amount of hardware at Barcelona, if that matters to you — can be devalued like that by talking heads that people actually listen to (unfortunately) is really, really pitiful.
Mike Greenberg said this on his morning radio show:
"The overwhelming diva quality of the soccer star so dwarfs that of the American superstar, it is pathetic."— Mike & Mike (@MikeAndMike) June 27, 2016
- Greeny on Messi and Ronaldo
The complete unintelligence and overwhelming diva quality of Mike Greenberg are at an all-time high.
This coming from a network who followed Brett Favre on planes and aired a one hour special for Lebron to pick a team https://t.co/PtwqXHW4eK— Total MLS (@TotalMLS) June 27, 2016
Total MLS sums it up perfectly.
Anyway, there is no debate that Lionel Messi is the best player the world has ever seen, and will certainly be missed on the international level. I don't care that he got unlucky a couple times. It's a team game.
Also, can we invite Messi and Argentina to the 2017 Gold Cup so they can win a major trophy? They need it.
Alright, back to what I'm supposed to be talking about:
1. Keep it up
A 2-0 win in Portland is an amazing result. A 2-1 win in Portland is just as good. A 2-2 draw is a solid result. A 2-2 draw after giving up a two-goal lead is still a solid result, but could have been better. A 3-2 loss in Portland is disappointing. A 3-2 loss in Portland after losing a two-goal lead is absolutely disastrous, especially for a team in desperate need of points.
That final one is what the Houston Dynamo did at Providence Park on Sunday.
The Dynamo played really, really good soccer in the first half. They finished their chances, they passed well, they were organized, they clogged the midfield, they played good defense. It's hard to find too many weaknesses for the Dynamo in the first half. They went into the locker room with a solid 2-0 lead that didn't have any appearance of faltering. It was essentially the opposite of Owen Coyle's tenure.
But, in the second half, they went into disaster-prevention mode. They sat deep in their own half and allowed Portland to attack them instead of keeping with the game they played in the first half, thus inviting the Timbers to set up shop in front of Joe Willis's goal. When the Dynamo got pinned deep in their own half, their attack slowly sputtered out, as did their possession and chance-creation in midfield. The addition of Cristian Maidana helped a little, but not enough.
Portland found more room around the box as the game progressed — thus giving Diego Valeri ample time and space to hit those deadly through-balls he is so good at hitting — and they put countless numbers into the box in the 4-4-2 they switched to later in the game. That much pressure usually results in something, and it did for the Timbers, as they earned two penalty kicks — correct or not — and won 3-2.
If the Dynamo had kept up what they had done in the first half, it could have been different. They attacked down the left and were effective with the ball in midfield:
That's their first half passing map. Their second half map should have been just as dynamic and direct.
For a team that is still adjusting to a new coach and to a new system, this really isn't too bad of a performance. The result was disastrous.
Game management and late-game tactics will come as the season progresses. For now, keep up the organization and the cohesiveness.
2. The answer
The month of June would be very telling for the Dynamo, and not just because of the new coach and everything. It would reveal whether Collen Warner is the long-term solution in defensive midfield, and whether they would need to make a move once the transfer window rolls around in early July. They've found their answer: Warner is here to stay.
The former Toronto FC man — acquired just before the start of the season, although he was injured for a good part of the first few weeks — was given the role of primary defensive midfielder, and he has run away with it. Warner hasn't always been perfect, but he's been positioned very well (no disconnect between the midfield and the defense), he is an effective ball winner (even though he commits a lot of fouls), and he has proven to be very good at preventing top chance-creators from doing their damage in midfield; Valeri was shut down until Caleb Porter pushed him out to the right in the second half, away from Warner.
The one thing he hasn't excelled at is distribution. That finally came in Portland:
Warner missed a total of three passes out of 39. That is Darlington Nagbe-esque right there.
He may not be on the level of, say, Diego Chara or Ozzie Alonso or even Wil Trapp yet, but he's on the right track. He is improving game-by-game, and that's all the Dynamo can ask. for.
I've said multiple times that the Dynamo have been much better under Wade Barrett than they were under Owen Coyle. They've been more organized, disciplined, and it appears that every player knows the system and knows his role in that system. Continuity is key, and over his first couple games as interim head coach, Barrett has established it.
Those good qualities I listed above apply to the Dynamo in the Portland game, even if they dropped points. They continued to look and play much better, and that's a credit to Barrett.