The Houston Dynamo have now dropped back-to-back games in their double game week first losing to the Philadelphia Union this past Wednesday and then falling to the Portland Timbers 1-2 on the road over the weekend. The Dynamo had their chances against Portland at Providence Park, but played conservatively for a large portion in the second half which let Portland back in the game.
Quick Thoughts about the Game:
1) Wilmer Cabrera opted for a defensive lineup that featured 5 defenders at the back. My initial reaction was that we could see a repeat of the 5-man back line that we saw against the Colorado Rapids. The Rapids also sit deep and the result was an ugly match with no sides wanting to get a goal. I thought that against a team as talented as Portland, this would not go well. I was wrong. The Dynamo, aside from their early goal, came out well. They pressed and Andrew Wenger and DaMarcus Beasley got up the field very well overwhelming Portland at times. I do not like the 5 at the back strategy, but this looked far better than the Colorado game and they showed energy on the road.
2) Let’s break down these goals: The first one should not have happened. The Dynamo had a numbers advantage of 5 (6 if you count the trailing Andrew Wenger) to Portland’s 3. Sebastián Blanco, the goal scorer, should have been picked up by Eric Alexander, Adolfo Machado or Jared Watts (they were both marking the same person neither one was Blanco), or possibly Andrew Wenger. I cut Wenger some slack because in a 5 man back wingbacks are expected to push up and they have cover from the extra CB and the defensive mids.
The second goal scored was a Dynamo goal and it was so opportunistic which I love. Alberth Elis won the ball in a great area, took players on the dribble, and put the ball across the mouth of goal. Romell Quioto showed great positioning getting behind the Timbers’ back and tapped in an equalizer. Can’t complain and that’s why pressing is effective. It creates these opportunities.
The last goal was just a mess. The Dynamo couldn’t clear the ball out around the 6 yard box and it bounced around enough times that it eventually went in. Unlucky, but that was coming given how much pressure Portland had been putting on Houston in the second half.
3) The Dynamo have had a nasty habit of sitting deep on a point or lead – especially on the road. Jesus Acevedo Jr. tweeted the “stat of the season”:
The stat of the season so far for Dynamo: pic.twitter.com/cTLJwb5Aak— Jesus Acevedo Jr. (@jesus_acevedojr) July 30, 2018
This shows that the strategy of playing it safe comes back to bite the Dynamo often. I understand the reasoning behind wanting to defend a lead, and nobody is suggesting don’t defend. But it’s about conceding ground in the midfield and sending fewer numbers up when we have the ball. When you give a team like Portland space, they’ll use it unlike the Rapids. On their game winning goal they had 6 players in a dangerous area compared to our 7 defenders. They can afford to send extra players up, because they don’t have to defend with as many with the Dynamo midfielders and wingbacks not supporting its offensive players. I tweeted this when I noticed it becoming the Dynamo’s style of play:
Dynamo definitely appear to be playing it on the safe side trying to get a draw, maybe something off a counter. Problem with that is it gives Portland a lot of room to operate and maybe take away that road point.— Dynamo Theory (@dynamotheory) July 29, 2018
They scored not long after that. I’m not a fan of playing for a draw, even on the road, when we need points. They played it safe and they coughed up the point they were trying to protect. It also goes against the Dynamo’s style of play. The best example is the US Open Cup game against Sporting Kansas City. The Dynamo never let their foot off the gas with their offense and it devastated SKC. When the Dynamo equalized and then took the lead, SKC had to commit more numbers up the field. The Dynamo could then lob the ball any direction and have a numbers advantage going the other way which opened the scoring up even more. Yes they gave up a second goal, but they scored two more goals than their opponent which is what matters most.
4) So what does this result mean? Not too much by itself. A close road loss isn’t much, but the Dynamo need to address how they close games out better. Part of the problem lately is injuries and not having players available. Juan David Cabezas, the team’s 2017 MVP, returning to the lineup in the future will be a huge boost. Part of the problem is how many games they’ve played in a short amount of time. But, the Dynamo have a brutal stretch of schedule ahead of them and are out of a playoff spot. They’ll need to make up ground sooner than later if they want to reach the postseason again.