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Houston Dynamo struggle to unlock Portland Timbers’ defense in group stage loss

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The Dynamo offense sputtered as the Timbers’ strategy of sitting back and counter attacking proved effective.

MLS: Houston Dynamo at Portland Timbers Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

In the second match for the Houston Dynamo in the MLS is Back tournament, the Dynamo came up short against the Portland Timbers. After a promising, although disappointing, draw with LAFC, the Dynamo followed it up with a 2-1 loss to the Timbers in Orlando. The Dynamo dominated possession, but simply couldn’t unlock the Timbers’ back line and Houston proved to be vulnerable on the counter attack.

Houston struggled out of the gate surrendering possession early with some poor giveaways out of the back and even conceded a free kick that led to a comfortable save by Dynamo goalkeeper Marko Marić. The Dynamo were able to slowly build up some possession in dangerous spots, but weren’t as direct and quick as they were in their previous match against LAFC.

The Dynamo increased their possession and built up their opportunities. Mauro Manotas earned a free kick just outside the 18 yard box in the 15th minute, but Memo Rodríguez’s set piece attempt deflected off the wall for an easy save for the Portland goalkeeper.

As the first half went on, the Dynamo continued to build up their chances with Portland largely getting their opportunities from the counter attack. Houston was a little sloppy in the final third, but they were able to consistently win the ball back in good areas. Matías Vera earned a free kick just outside the box after the hydration break. Darwin Quintero stood over the ball and curled one just off the mark which somehow sent Portland’s keeper Steve Clark the wrong way.

The Timbers continued to find dangerous moments on the counter, first with Yimmi Chará forcing a kick save by Marko Marić. Not long after that it would be Portland that opened up the scoring in Orlando with Sebastián Blanco supplying a ball behind the Dynamo defense to Jeremy Ebobisse who calmly beat Marić back post.

The Dynamo should have equalized not long after Ebobisse’s opener, as Zarek Valentin played a long ball to Quintero. Quintero spun around his defender to find acres of space and then played a perfect ball across to Elis, but Elis’s one time shot went wide of the goal.

Houston started the second half with a dangerous counter attack of their own. After winning possession, the ball went wide to Quintero who played a nice ball to Lundqvist who made a great overlapping run. The cross ended up being deflected out for a corner kick, which was a great ball in, but led to a goal kick for the Timbers.

Blanco almost made it 2-0 for Portland after a great through ball by Diego Valeri which saw Blanco free on goal, but the Dynamo were able to cut off the angle which put his shot just wide of goal.

Valeri would make it 2-0 in the 61st minute again on the counter attack with Houston’s fullbacks caught high up the field. A great ball over the top to Eryk Williamson ended up at the feet of Diego Valeri who juked Kiki Struna and beat Marić with his left foot.

The Dynamo would get some help from VAR as Jorge Villafaña handled the ball on a cross. The center official initially said play on, but after a dead ball looked at the monitor and gave the penalty. Alberth Elis stepped up and easily beat Steve Clark.

Not long after that, Elis would be shown a red card for making contact with Bill Tuiloma’s face going for a ball. It appeared to be a second yellow card as Elis had received a yellow just 60 seconds prior which reduced Houston to 10 men.

After 90 minutes plus stoppage time the Dynamo would fall 2-1 to the Portland Timbers. The offense just wasn’t dynamic enough to breakdown a deeper sitting team which found a lot of success on the counter attack.

Next up for the Dynamo is the LA Galaxy on Thursday, July 23rd at 7:00 PM CT.

Goals:

35’ POR: Jeremy Ebobisse (assisted by Sebastián Blanco)

61’ POR: Diego Valeri (assisted by Eryk Williamson, Larrys Mabiala)

86’ HOU: Alberth Elis (penalty kick)

Disciplinary:

7’ HOU: Maynor Figueroa (yellow card)

24’ POR: Eryk Williamson (yellow card)

45’ +1’ HOU: Memo Rodríguez (yellow card)

86’ POR: Jorge Villafaña (yellow card)

87’ HOU: Alberth Elis (yellow card)

88’ HOU: Alberth Elis (second yellow card, red)

Lineups:

Houston Dynamo (4-3-3): Marko Marić; Adam Lundqvist, Maynor Figueroa, Kiki Struna (88’ Víctor Cabrera), Zarek Valentin; Memo Rodríguez (62’ Tomás Martínez), Matías Vera, Oscar Boniek García (87’ Tommy McNamara); Darwin Quintero (88’ Nico Lemoine), Mauro Manotas, Alberth Elis

Portland Timbers (4-2-3-1): Steve Clark; Jorge Villafaña, Bill Tuiloma, Larrys Mabiala, Pablo Bonilla (82’ Chris Duvall); Eryk Williamson (69’ Marvi Loría), Diego Chará; Sebastián Blanco, Diego Valeri, Yimmi Chará (60’ Andy Polo); Jeremy Ebobisse (69’ Jaroslaw Niezgoda)