The Houston Dynamo are currently on a 3 game skid recently dropping a road point late due to a Teal Bunbury stoppage time game winner for the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium. The result was expected due to the lineup and how the Dynamo have struggled recently, but after a strong first half, losing out on anything made this one feel a little different.
Quick Thoughts about the Game:
1) A big issue a lot of Dynamo fans had even before the kick off whistle was with the team selection by Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera. He opted to rest many starters in favor of 2nd or 3rd options including Michael Salazar over Mauro Manotas and Kevin Garcia over Kiki Struna. The lineup did not inspire a lot of hope especially given how poor the team typically performs on the road and on artificial turf.
What we saw play out was a little different than we expected and I wouldn’t necessarily blame the outcome on the XI or the substitutions, but having better players on the pitch would have helped in a lot of different ways. Resting these players again also gives the impression that the Coach has given up on this game and is already looking ahead to the next one – not something that fans appreciate.
2) Given that starting XI, most fans immediately thought the game was doomed out of the gate, but that’s not what happened. In fact, the team looked like the far better side and was unfortunate to not be up by more than a goal going into halftime. The difference of having a healthy and competitive Romell Quioto played a big part in that as did the great long passing by Darwin Cerén.
The team was aggressive, played with a high line, and pressured defenders to make poor passes which resulted in turnovers in the midfield that led to counter attacks. Houston also showed quality spells of possession where they found ways to penetrate through passing – something the Dynamo is not always good at. One effect of this pressing was it kept the Revolution fullbacks deeper so they couldn’t get into the offense as easily. It wasn’t always perfect and there were chances on the break for New England, but the defense and Joe Willis were largely up to the task in the first half.
3) Now…the second half was a different story. For starters, I’ll credit the Revs for making some adjustments and they were on point with their use of substitutions. However, I thought a lot more of the blame should go to Cabrera for again using conservative tactics to try and grind out a result. I noticed the team sitting deeper right at the whistle for the second half and in my mind I knew exactly where it would go because we’ve been down this road before. They quickly equalized and then won it late.
Why does this happen? Because when you keep your midfield and defenders deeper, it strands your forward(s) thus taking them out of the game and it allows the opposition to put numbers into the midfield and the final third. Think about how many times we heard Romell Quioto’s name in the first half compared to the second.
Essentially, keeping more players behind the ball condenses the field and it makes it easier for opponents to win the ball to try to set up another opportunity. That’s not a bad strategy for the final 5-10 minutes of a game, but not for roughly 45 minutes and not with Kevin Garcia and Chris Duvall on your back line. A more effective strategy would’ve been to continue the aggressive strategy from the first half which helped them regain possession often OR a strategy based around possession to let the other team chase the game. In order to do both of those it requires players to stretch the field. Do that until 80+ and then you can sit back on the lead.
4) There were a lot of factors going into this game that can make the result excusable. Players were still gone or just returning from international call-ups. Players have been on a large number of minutes because they’ve been filling in for those missing national team players. The schedule itself has been a whirlwind with double game weeks the regular now. Players have gotten injured like Memo Rodríguez.
But not having Memo or Elis or Struna playing doesn’t excuse the entire second half shift in tactics. At some point we’ve got to say that losing 4-0 in Portland, 2-0 in San Jose, and now 2-1 at the Revolution isn’t acceptable even with all of these factors. The team has not a regular season game since May 18th and their only win in that time was in the US Open Cup against USL Championship side Austin Bold FC which was a close game.