For sixty five minutes, Houston head coach Wilmer Cabrera looked like a genius putting together a makeshift lineup on the pitch for Tuesday night’s US Open Cup match with Minnesota United in the Round of 16. In the 66th minute the wheels fell off and a commanding 2-0 Houston lead disintegrated into a stunning 3-2 loss eliminating the 2018 US Open Cup champion from this year’s tournament.
The loss left Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera having to apologize for the second time in a week for his team’s poor second half performance.
“Let’s give 45 (minutes), 45, but after that it’s disappointing that the players looked like they didn’t want to play and it was two different games,” said Cabrera trying to explain how his team blew a two goal lead in 23 minutes. “One in the first one where we were very good, very good, with a lot of determination, with a lot of pressure, playing well, attacking mentality—the way of the Houston Dynamo. In the second half we were horrible.”
Houston was without the services of forward Mauro Manotas and defender Adam Lundkvist who were both out of the country due to document issues. Memo Rodriguez had an unexplained muscle injury. Forwards Alberth Elis, Romell Quioto, and Darwin Ceren were also on international duty. Kiki Struna and and A.J. DeLaGarza had also just returned from international duty and were possibly not 90 minutes ready. Add in defender DaMarcus Beasley, whom the team chose to sit.
Goals by Ronaldo Pena (9’) and Tomas Martinez (37’) had given an energetic start to match. Houston controlled the opening 45 minutes, outdistancing Minnesota in nearly every category. The second half Houston seemed to wither under the 94 degree heat and the Loons intensity.
After being out shot 10-5 in the first half, MNUFC turned the tables 16-2 in their favor scoring three times on eight shots on target. In a span of nine minutes Minnesota forced Houston keeper Michael Nelson, in his professional debut, to make four ESPN highlight reel saves. Minnesota forward Darwin Quintero would get the Loons on the board in the 66th and then level the match at 2-2 sixteen minutes later. Twenty year old forward Mason Toye turned his professional goal into the game winner in the 89th minute.
“It felt great. It was a really exciting opportunity and one that I’ve been working hard to try to earn,” said Nelson about his night between the pipes. “Goalkeeper is a position that requires a lot of trust, so I’ve been working hard to build trust with my teammates and the coaches. I was able to get an opportunity to go out there today. Not the result we wanted, I conceded three goals.”
Houston has a quick turn around as they travel to meet the Portland Timbers in a Saturday night match. One can expect that back line will be intact in front of starting keeper Joe Willis. Who will be set up in the midfield and up top is the question to be answered.
Portland has a Round of 16 match today against the L.A Galaxy before turning their attention to Houston. The Timbers are the worst in the Western Conference with a record of 4-2-7. The team from the Pacific Northwest with minus 7 goal differential may be just what the doctor ordered to heal the Houston Dynamo’s team woes.