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Three things from the Dynamo’s draw with Toronto FC

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Evaluating Mauro Manotas's first MLS start and more from the Dynamo's draw with Toronto FC.

MLS: Toronto FC at Houston Dynamo Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Wade Barrett’s okay with the Houston Dynamo’s performance on Sunday against Toronto FC, via HoustonDynamo.com:

"I’m inspired to see effort and energy like that, but I do expect it and this group has given that over the last couple months," Barrett said. "We continue to be a little disappointed at the end of every game, but there are also some positives we can take from every performance.

"I’m trying to work on the things we need to get better at, along with encouraging and riding the stuff that we’re doing pretty well."

He also said this:

Barrett doesn’t explicitly come out and say it, but from these statements, it can be inferred that he is positive about the Dynamo’s future and that he plans to focus on improving it, even if it means not contending for the postseason. Some fans may not love it, but this is the right attitude to have for a coach in his position.

The playoffs aren’t going to happen for the Dynamo, even if Eddie Robinson hasn’t realized it yet.

Don’t worry, they won’t get relegated. Instead, they’ll have time to get themselves together and figure out how they’re going to play and where they need to improve.

Anyway, here are some thoughts on that 1-1 home draw with TFC:

1. Manotas Starts

It took a while, but Mauro Manotas was finally given his first MLS start. He had been used as an occasional attacking sub and started in various US Open Cup matches, but it took until August 14th for him to be in the starting lineup in an MLS game.

He did not disappoint.

The Colombian produced a magical assist — one that helped the Dynamo’s only goal become a contender for GOTW — and he showed plenty of skill on the ball, beating defenders in tight spaces and going at them 1v1. He had the confidence to test Alex Bono consistently, and there were times where he almost produced a second goal because of it.

He was impressive, but he still has things he can improve on. For example, he failed to give support to Ricardo Clark on this counter opportunity:

Manotas, like his fellow forward Will Bruin, often shows a tendency to get stranded up top for periods of time; he had the least amount of touches of any Dynamo player who was on the field for more than 45 minutes.

In addition, he needs to learn to make more consistent runs through the channel, because he has the acceleration and the pace to cause serious problems for backlines. His work rate isn’t the greatest — he allows defenses to have too much simple possession — and he doesn’t pass the ball well enough. He doesn’t provide much in terms of link-up play or hold-up play.

Despite this, it was an extremely positive debut for Manotas, and one in which he showed considerable talent. Many of the above concerns are easily fixable; let’s remember that he just turned 21 a month ago.

The reality is, he deserves more playing time. I hope Barrett sees the potential and realizes that he has the opportunity to get this guy some minutes, because he is fun to watch and provides a semblance of creativity into the Dynamo’s otherwise-stagnant attack.

2. Emergency Defense

The Dynamo are playing really good defense right now. They do a great job of packing in tight, closing down space, and making sure they don’t give away any significant room in and around the box. They were able to do that again against TFC, surviving with a draw despite being down a man for 45 minutes.

A big part of that success has been the Dynamo’s emergency defense, which, if you don’t know, is their ability to keep the ball out of the ball when they are disorganized and the ball is in or near the box. Jozy Altidore’s amazing set piece strike aside, Houston did a great job of clearing the ball early and getting in front of the ball in the box.

The epitome of this was Jalil Anibaba’s bicycle-kick clearance close to stoppage time:

That, right there, is the play of the game in my eyes.

The Dynamo have considerably improved in this area since the beginning of the season, and that has been one of the catalysts for the defensive progress.

3. CB Depth

One of the only positions for which I can say I am fully confident that the Dynamo are above average at is center back. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that David Horst, Raul Rodriguez and Agus are all-star caliber or anything, but they have each performed fairly well this season, particularly after Barrett took charge.

I’m also not saying they are long-term solutions at the position. They have their flaws, but I will maintain that they have done well of late, even if they started the season poorly.

Agus was — deservedly — given a place on the MLS Team of the Week, and while Raul Rodriguez has been on and off the shelf of late, when he’s on the field, and provides a certain proficiency and experience that the Dynamo don’t have in many other places. Keyner Brown will only add to these strengths.

Let’s give credit where credit is due: The central defenders have been on par of late.