Coming off a two wins over C.D. Guastatoya, the Houston Dynamo were beat 0-2 by Tigres UANL at BBVA Compass Stadium in the opening leg of the Quarterfinals of CONCACAF Champions League. Despite a hard fought effort for most of the match, Tigres were able to come away with two big away goals.
Quick Thoughts about the Game:
1) During the 2018 MLS regular season, the Dynamo defense was rightly criticized for their gaffs and late game goals. Part of that was due to the absence of 2017 team MVP Juan David Cabezas along with a slew of injuries to players such as A.J. DeLaGarza. Against Tigres, the team defended very well for nearly the entire game. They lacked JDC again who has been sitting out with discomfort in his leg, but did have A.J. in at right back who made a few big stops. It was a tremendous effort against a team with a lot of offensive talents that played some very good 1-2 passing in the 18 yard box. Joe Willis also made some good plays (more on him later) that helped keep the Dynamo in the game. However, they switched off a few times and a quality opponent like Tigres punished them for it.
2) The goals that the Dynamo allowed were unfortunate because the defense they had played up until the opening goal had been so good. DaMarcus Beasley and Alejandro Fuenmayor had the first goal pretty well defended too. It took perfect passing and movement by Tigres to get behind and put the ball passed Willis, but it showed Houston didn’t trail the runs as well as they could have. Fuenmayor in particular tried to make a tackle or clear the ball and ended up behind the eventual goal scorer. On the second goal, Beasley had the play pretty much covered, but a fantastic first touch by Julián Quiñones took the ball around Beasley, and an even better effort from distance saw Tigres double their lead.
3) The Dynamo weren’t without their own chances, but Tigres collapsed their defense so well to smother the Dynamo offense. At times it looked like Houston needed more options from out of the midfield just because Tigres got numbers back so quickly and the Dynamo seldom had the space they needed to be effective. The Dynamo did lack Tomás Martínez who was sitting out after an early exit against RSL after getting repeatedly kicked, but Tommy McNamara largely did well distributing the ball in his place. Another aspect to consider is that the trio of Romell Quioto, Mauro Manotas, and Alberth Elis all played heavy minutes this past Saturday against Real Salt Lake and fatigue could have come into play. It wasn’t a poor effort by the offense, but it wasn’t clicking as it usually does at BBVA Compass Stadium.
4) The depth of the Dynamo was a big issue in 2018, and some of those issues reared its head again against Tigres. Missing Tomás Martínez and Juan David Cabezas along with the mysterious absences of Kiki Struna and Darwin Cerén did not help Houston’s odds at beating a team like Tigres. The options off the bench to adjust were thin too. Marlon Hairston has proven to be a super sub and did well, but Memo Rodríguez and Ronaldo Peña (and perhaps Hairston as well) still have to prove themselves as CCL level players.
5) Joe Willis was outstanding. The box score says he only recorded 2 saves, but he was alert and focused to getting to balls before they became a problem. You can’t fault Willis for the goals allowed and he should be the unanimous pick as man of the match.