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What’s wrong with the Houston Dynamo?

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The season can still be saved if the team breaks out of the current slump.

MLS: Houston Dynamo at New England Revolution Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Dynamo have reverted back to the Houston Dynamo of old. The Dynamo that barely holds on at home and is horrendous on the road. 2019 was supposed to be the season that the Houston Dynamo turned the corner under head coach Wilmer Cabrera. Last season quite a few lost matches were explained away with a shrug of the shoulders and the words, “we’re not the best team in the MLS.”

Those eight words aren’t cutting it in 2019. Coaches are frustrated. Players are frustrated. Fans are even more frustrated. The mark of a good team is its ability to play well without its stars. Houston has been unable to do that. Since May 11, when Houston last won an MLS game, the team has lost four with one draw.

Lineup instability

The Houston Dynamo have spent the last few years using the men up front in a rotation, as to hopefully have fresh legs always there. Now, Cabrera has decided that he can do it with the rest of his starting XI but it is not working. Over the last six matches, not one player has played all six matches at any position. It’s understandable to change out a player here and a player there but when your defense does not play together, it’s difficult to gain any chemistry or cohesion. It’s like flipping a coin as to who will start on the backline and Houston cannot afford to let the season slip away. The formation has become predictable as quickly as the starting lineups have become unpredictable. The Dynamo have no identity in the defensive third. Cabrera needs to forget the rotation and play the best starting XI.

Manotas and Memo

Mauro Manotas and Memo Rodriguez are the heart and soul of this team, one of the oldest in Major League Soccer. Only the L.A. Galaxy, the Seattle Sounders and Minnesota United FC have an older age average than Houston. Manotas, last season established himself as one f the best strikers in professional soccer young or old. No one has a nose for the goal like he does. The Dynamo sorely missed Manotas as he missed all of June, which the organization attributed to paperwork snafus in his home country of Columbia. Memo has been battling a leg injury for the better part of a month. He sparks the energy level with his ability to find an open space and get to the goal. Houston has missed what he brings to the table. His return will bring an immediate difference in the midfield as he and Tomas Martinez are like Tom and Jerry, Ying and Yang, Batman and Robin, well you get the point. When Memo is on the field, his skill set makes players like Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto even more dangerous.

Play the full 90 plus

The biggest obstacle during this swoon for the Houston Dynamo has been themselves. They play a stirring first 45 minutes, grab a goal or two and then they forget how to finish a team. The second half in most games has been the complete opposite of the first. In the last six matches, the Dynamo have surrendered 13 goals and although disturbing, it’s the fact that eight of those have come after the hour mark and seven after the 75th minute. In contrast, Houston has scored exactly zero goals after the 53rd minute. It’s become a bend but don’t break tactic all too often in the second half and they have broken more times then we care to count. Play the full 90 plus and let’s see what happens.

The final whistle

Houston has the talent to be the best team in Major League Soccer. This is more than evident by the number of players called up by their national teams for various international commitments. Now as everyone returns, it is time for the players to step up and execute. When former Dynamo coach Owen Coyle departed and Wade Barrett held the tag of interim, Dynamo captain DaMarcus Beasley shared this thought with me.

“The coaching staff puts together a game plan,” said Beasley. “It’s up to us as players to step up, do our job and execute the game plan on the field.”

That time has arrived. This is the moment when the Houston Dynamo must step up and execute. The season depends on it.