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Houston Dynamo 2, Portland Timbers 1: Rate the Players and Quick Thoughts

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How well did the Dynamo players perform in leg 2 of the Conference Semifinals against the Timbers?

MLS: Western Conference Semifinal-Houston Dynamo at Portland Timbers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

At the beginning of the year I introduced a new way for the Dynamo Theory community to be a part of Player Ratings. After matches everyone will get a chance to submit how each player did on a scale of 1 to 10 which will be averaged out in a later article usually on Tuesday mornings depending when the game takes place. These ratings are interesting because we all view how players perform differently. Rating websites like WhoScored.com view things from an analytical perspective, but a statistic, even one as big as a goal, doesn’t quite tell the entire story as some goals are bigger and more important to a game than others. I think seeing how we as a community feel can create fun conversations. Of course, how we feel individually matters as well so please comment about player performances as you wish in the comments.

Quick Thoughts about the Game:

1) The Houston Dynamo are onto the Western Conference Finals to face the Seattle Sounders after besting the top seeded team in the West the Portland Timbers 2-1 on aggregate. After a 0-0 game at BBVA Compass Stadium earlier this week, the Dynamo were both at an advantage and at a disadvantage coming into the game at Providence Park in Portland, OR. The advantage was that they prevented Portland from getting an away goal which meant that Houston could win with a draw if they were able to get on the score sheet. Their disadvantage was their own awful road form and generally terrible form in Portland/on artificial turf.

Wilmer Cabrera selected what I thought to be a largely conservative lineup with Alex up top at LW instead of Romell Quioto, Vicente Sanchez, or Mauro Manotas. Eric Alexander was also in over the veteran Ricardo Clark who had developed strong chemistry with Juan David Cabezas. This was a do-or-die game after all and the lineup felt like it was built to score and then hunker down, but this was not the case. The Dynamo came out a step quicker than they had at home and defensively were much more tuned into the movements of the Portland midfielders and forwards. This helped them prevent Diego Valeri from being as influential on the field which limited the quality of Portland’s chances. The Dynamo would concede the first goal and that pretty much changed the tune of the game. After allowing the goal, the Dynamo went for broke and were able to find a lot more success pushing up the field in their best road performance of the year.

2) Another disadvantage the Dynamo had was with their personnel. Many players were out injured, or in Tyler Deric’s case, suspended. DaMarcus Beasley was injured in training so Dylan Remick stepped up and with Leonardo and A.J. DeLaGarza injured as well it was up to Philippe Senderos and Jalil Anibaba to fill in against Portland. These players excelled Sunday evening. Joe Willis came up with the biggest save of the game in the 23rd

Senderos had several crucial clearances and Anibaba had 3 tackles on the right side of the field in our half. Anibaba still needs to work on his distribution and Senderos has a tendency to try his luck at being a number 10 which is very dangerous out of the back, but those shortcomings were overshadowed by their positioning and big moments. Eric Alexander’s performance was also impressive. While he didn’t have the defensive game that Ricardo Clark usually does, he was very good at moving the ball through the midfield and providing key passes (he’s also a deceptively good dribbler and he let the Timbers know that).

Our regular starters also had strong games. I think that Juan David Cabezas is arguably the most important player on this team because without him in defensive midfield we can get exposed easily. He was physical and tactful at the same time as he made a pair of tackles and had 8 (EIGHT!) intercepted passes. Tomas Martinez is another player that continues to impress me. He plays a lot like Vicente Sanchez as both players are very smart with the ball in their distribution and their dribbling and both press and win the ball. Martinez, playing in midfield, was at times the highest player pressing which led to sloppy passes out of the back.

3) As mentioned above, the opening goal the Dynamo allowed was a turning point in how they attacked Portland, but on the goal itself there are a couple of talking points. For starters, Alexander is a little slow to get back as Anibaba has to cover both Valeri with the ball and his target, Vytas, but Anibaba did have some support in Machado should Valeri go inside instead of outside. Because of that, Valeri pushes the ball out to Vytas which leaves Anibaba to hurry over and try and get in front of the cross – that fails. The cross is able to fall to Dairon Asprilla who is able to take a touch to settle the ball and put it passed Joe Willis. He’s only given time to do this because Dylan Remick slips on the turf (yes I’m bringing up turf because so many Portland fans brought it up after the first leg). The targets of the cross in general were well marked, but the Dynamo have struggled this season about letting the cross come in because the outside backs give too much space to players out wide. In this case, I can’t blame Anibaba for marking Valeri since he was closest to him and had the ball, but pressure from Alexander needed to arrive sooner so Anibaba could cover Vytas.

For the Dynamo, their goals were also remarkable and instead of remarkable because of a literal slip up, they were special because of how stunning the shots were. Dylan Remick would find redemption for his defensive mistake just four minutes later. Tomas Martinez sent in a long pass out of a deep midfield position into the box which Anibaba headed down and Remick volleyed home a screaming equalizer. The underrated best part of the goal is Cabezas boxing out a player, basketball style, to create a tiny amount of room for the shot. The second and final goal of the game was also incredible simply due to the decision making by Mauro Manotas. Manotas, who had not been on the field long as a substitute, received a short pass in the midfield from Alexander. Manotas took one dribble and lifted his head up and put the Dynamo up 2-1. There were several defenders and a goalkeeper in front of him, but he decided, “far corner, low and in”. You can’t fault a player for taking those kinds of shots when they go in.

4) This was for many, an unexpected result. Portland had been dominant at home this season and the Dynamo had been abysmal away from BBVA. Injuries were a factor for both sides, but the Dynamo were well prepared and the Timbers seemed to be out to lunch for long stretches of the game – possibly already thinking about the Sounders in the Conference Finals. Instead of the Cascadia match-up it felt like a lot of people wanted to see, it will be the Dynamo and Sounders who will see each other for the first time in the postseason since the 2009 Western Conference Semifinals (the Dynamo advanced in that series).

Rate the Players: