Whether or not you think the MLS restarting is safe with two clubs dropping out of the tournament due to a high number of players with Covid-19, the MLS is Back tournament is still going ahead and the Houston Dynamo and LAFC met in their first games of the tournament each battling it out in Group F. After holding onto a 3-1 lead at the half, the Dynamo sat deep for large stretches of the second half which let LAFC play their way back resulting in a high scoring draw after 90 minutes.
LAFC were aggressive early and not only were more organized, but got an early look on goal as well. Houston played their way back into it, although with some nervous clearances, but the Dynamo found some room on the counter attack. Some of their chances were forced, but eventually the Dynamo would break through in the 9th minute.
Darwin Quintero played the ball to Memo Rodríguez who cut passed his defender Latif Blessing. Memo fired a shot towards the near post and beat goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer to put the Dynamo up 1-0.
What a start from @40_jrod #HoldItDown pic.twitter.com/rlwFnQNGFD— Houston Dynamo (@HoustonDynamo) July 14, 2020
The goal seemed to fire up LA as they continued to mount pressure on the Dynamo defense until they were level. A cross sent in met the outstretched foot of Bradley Wright-Phillips who beat Marko Marić to tie things up just 10 minutes after Memo’s opener.
Rossi ➡️ @BWPNINENINE— LAFC (@LAFC) July 14, 2020
We're all square in Orlando. #LAFCvHOU 1-1 pic.twitter.com/vaZ4J1cuqC
Despite giving up a lot of possession to LAFC, the Dynamo were successful finding room on the counter which helped them create chances. Zarek Valentin sent in a cross right before the hydration break and was able to find Memo. Memo’s first time shot was right at goalkeeper Vermeer, but the rebound was off Memo’s thigh and he guided it into the goal to put the Dynamo back on top.
¡Vamos! @40_jrod crashes in and puts us ahead again!#HoldItDown pic.twitter.com/Jjcg6NGouI— Houston Dynamo (@HoustonDynamo) July 14, 2020
Before the half, the Dynamo would find the back of the net a third time. Memo Rodríguez was brought down on the edge of the penalty box setting up a set piece opportunity. Quintero stepped up and picked out Alberth Elis who rose up and headed the ball home. The flag was initially raised for offsides, but after a check with VAR center referee Timothy Ford ruled that the goal will count.
LAFC nearly got out to a perfect start in the second half with Wright-Phillips again being involved. Following a through ball, BWP looked 1v1 with the Dynamo keeper, but Marko Marić got big and made a huge save to keep Houston’s lead at two goals.
Memo tried to get his hat trick in the 56th minute, again coming from a good counter attacking run. A long ball out of the back to Elis saw him hold the ball up to wait for support and Quintero picked out Memo on a cross. Memo took a touch and fired one off, but it took a deflection and was easily saved.
Diego Rossi helped LA close the gap with a rocket of a shot. More build up play quickly saw Rossi through and he fired a shot from a difficult angle resulting in LAFC getting back into the game.
Rossi Rocket @LAFC cuts the deficit with this Diego Rossi hit. #LAFCvHOU pic.twitter.com/pM7zlAtAme— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 14, 2020
With the Dynamo sitting deeper, the counter attack suffered with Mauro Manotas and Alberth Elis not getting support which led to LAFC regaining possession quickly and building up their chances to equalize. LA would find the back of the net with Latif Blessing playing Brian Rodríguez through on to goal and Rodríguez slotting it passed Marić.
It's @LAFC 3, Houston 3! @Brodriguez_16 get his first career @MLS goal to complete the comeback! #MLSisBack pic.twitter.com/wUVPquAUhr— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 14, 2020
The Dynamo continued to dig deeper with Head Coach Tab Ramos substituting his creative and quick players like Quintero and Elis for more defensive options. This strategy helped the Dynamo stop conceding goals, but they struggled to do more than clear the ball back to LAFC. After several close chances, the final whistle blew and the game was level at three goals apiece.
In fairness, it was a deserved result given how different each half was. A well thought out game plan in the first half that utilized space, pace, and width caught LA out of position. The second half was more about weathering LA’s offense and holding onto the lead which resulted in a tie.
Next up for the Dynamo is the Portland Timbers this coming Saturday at 7:00 PM CT.
9’ HOU: Memo Rodríguez (assist by Darwin Quintero)
19’ LAFC: Bradley Wright-Phillips (assist by Diego Rossi, Latif Blessing)
30’ HOU: Memo Rodríguez
45’ + 5’ HOU: Alberth Elis (assist by Darwin Quintero)
63’ LAFC: Diego Rossi (assist by Eduard Atuesta, Francisco Ginella)
69’ LAFC: Brian Rodríguez (assist by Latif Blessing)
46’ HOU: Matías Vera (yellow card)
52’ LAFC: Tristan Blackmon (yellow card)
67’ HOU: Oscar Boniek García (yellow card)
Houston Dynamo (4-3-3): Marko Marić; Adam Lundqvist (81’ Sam Junqua), Maynor Figueroa, Kiki Struna, Zarek Valentin; Memo Rodríguez (64’ Nico Lemoine), Matías Vera, Oscar Boniek García; Darwin Quintero (64’ Darwin Cerén), Mauro Manotas, Alberth Elis (87’ Víctor Cabrera)
LAFC (4-3-3): Kenneth Vermeer; Diego Palacios (60’ Mohamed El-Munir), Eddie Segura, Dejan Jokovic, Tristan Blackmon (60’ Francisco Ginella); Mark-Anthony Kaye (90’ José Cifuentes) , Eduard Atuesta, Latif Blessing; Brian Rodríguez, Diego Rossi, Bradley Wright-Phillips (60’ Adama Diomande, 77’ Danny Musovski)