The Houston Dynamo have lost five league games in a row and currently sit in the 10th spot in the Western Conference, 10 points from the final playoff spot. Their last outing can be described as a disastrous finish. The Dynamo led Real Salt Lake following a 36th minute Oscar Boniek García deflected volley, but a pair of stoppage time goals by Albert Rusnák saw the visitors walk away with all three points.
Quick Thoughts about the Game:
1) From the opening whistle it looked clear that Real Salt Lake wanted it more. They looked organized from top to bottom, created chances, and defended against our typically potent offense well. The Dynamo on the other hand struggled to string passes together transitioning from the middle third of the field to the attacking third. There was a lack of urgency and it was a stark contrast to the level of intensity that the visiting RSL side brought as they fought to defend their vulnerable playoff position. To give the Dynamo credit, they did see their form improve in the second half for a stretch with RSL forced to put more players higher up the field to try and find an equalizer. However, we saw once again late goals by our opponent with the team trying to sit back and defend a lead.
2) There are some positives to take away from this game provided we do our best to ignore the result and look at the play of some members of the Dynamo. Joe Willis collected 7 saves and was a big reason the Dynamo had the lead as long as they did. Alejandro Fuenmayor had some important tackles and blocked shots (although dribbling out of the back is not always advised). When Romell Quioto and Mauro Manotas were receiving the ball during the stretch of the second half where the Dynamo looked like themselves they were creating a lot of chances. I know they didn’t go in, but I’d rather be missing shots on the other side of the field than having shots come at our goal. Ronaldo Peña showed some flashes of what he can bring, although he certainly needs some more time to develop chemistry with the squad. Lastly it was nice to see Boniek get a goal as well.
3) In the end, the Dynamo have themselves to blame for the result. They didn’t come out sharp and were forced to weather a ton of pressure in their own stadium. Houston, typically a pretty offensive forward team, was outshot 25 to 12 at home. That cannot happen. Sure, the Dynamo led and nearly got more on the board, but familiar tactics of sitting deeper late in games let RSL back in it.
4) The Dynamo have now lost 5 in a row and there are a ton of factors to explain this slump. Injuries to key players, suspensions, and a busy schedule can account for some of it. Officiating certainly could be a primary reason the Dynamo lost the game against the Philadelphia Union. The team doesn’t have a lot of support from the front office which has the lowest payroll in the league again. But I keep coming back to tactics as possibly the primary reason the Dynamo are in the position that they’re in. I think the Dynamo when they play they’re style can beat anyone, with or without Juan David Cabezas. Sure, he’ll help a lot more than Darwin Cerén, but when Boniek and Tomás Martínez aren’t giving up space in the midfield and Quioto and Manotas are pressuring, they’ll score a lot of goals. They’ll often give up some in the process, but they’ll score a lot more. Tomás was sitting far too deep too often against RSL and he’s the guy that’s who needs to pull the strings of the offense.
We know they’re sitting deeper late in games because Houston doesn’t score very often late. They’ve given up 12 goals after the 80th minute this season, but have only scored 6 themselves after the 80th minute. Over the last five games the Dynamo have averaged giving up a goal after the 80th once a game while they haven’t scored once after the 80th in that time. They had some bad luck over that stretch including the Philly game and the horrible SKC match, but I’d argue at Portland, Crew SC, and home against RSL were winnable if the team hadn’t doubled down on defending – and in the case of the Timbers and Crew SC that would have been playing for a draw which turned into losses.