It was a disappointing evening for the Houston Dynamo who led for most of their final game of Group F against the LA Galaxy in the MLS is Back tournament. The familiar “sitting deep” on a lead is a tactic Houston fans know well, and they know it often doesn’t end well. A stoppage time equalizer was enough by the Galaxy to see both sides out of the tournament.
The LA Galaxy began the match by utilizing a higher press which provided Houston some room to counter if they were able to work things out of the back. Despite the high press, Houston would get the game’s first two chances on goal. The first effort came from a shot from distance by Memo Rodríguez which was off target. Then Niko Hansen, who was playing for the suspended Alberth Elis, played a ball in to Mauro Manotas, but the header was right to Los Angeles goalkeeper David Bingham.
Houston’s game plan was to be behind the ball and play through transition which helped them get the majority of the chances early on. The Dynamo did break through following a free kick earned by Matías Vera. Darwin Quintero stepped up just outside the 18 yard box and delivered a great shot that found the net passed a flat footed Bingham. Houston 1, LA 0.
The Galaxy had a chance to equalize in the 26th minute after earning a free kick outside the Dynamo’s 18 yard box, but Marko Marić saw the kick the entire way and made a diving save where he pushed it away from danger. In the 37th minute Ethan Zubak got free on the counter attack which Dynamo defenders thought he was offside. No flag went up, but Zubak pulled his chance wide.
Just before halftime the Dynamo nearly doubled their lead on the counter attack. A long ball found Niko Hansen behind the LA’s back line with Memo Rodríguez cutting inside. Hansen played a ball next to Memo, but it was blocked and the following opportunities were successfully cleared by the Galaxy.
The Galaxy came out quickly to start the second half and following a Dynamo corner sprang a counter attack, but Houston was able to track back quickly which slowed down the offense resulting in LA settling for a Zubak header straight at Marko Marić. Moments later the Dynamo nearly got another one with a ball being whipped into the box to Mauro Manotas. Manotas turned and miss-hit the ball. He appeared to injury himself in the process which led to Ronaldo Peña coming on for the number 9.
As the game wore on, the Dynamo struggled to get the ball out of their own half with the Galaxy throwing everything forward trying to get one back, but the Houston defenders were up to the task to keep LA off the score sheet. Houston occasionally was successful getting the ball up the field, but nowhere near as often as they had in the first half.
The Dynamo nearly capitalized on a free kick earned by Tomás Martínez in the 85th minute. Tommy McNamara played a low ball through to Ronaldo Peña who helped it on to the back post to Maynor Figueroa, but the ball went out for a goal kick.
Following a corner kick by the Galaxy, Figueroa appeared to pull down Diedie Traore in the box resulting in a penalty. The center official didn’t look at VAR, but on the replay it looked like a generous call for the Galaxy. Cristian Pavón stepped up to the spot and equalized in stoppage time.
The pace of the game picked up following the stoppage time penalty with both sides coming close to getting a game winner, but the final whistle would blow which would see Houston eliminated from the MLS is Back tournament. The Galaxy were always going to send everything they had forward to get a goal, but the Dynamo needed to do more than sit back and it ended up costing them.
17’ HOU: Darwin Quintero
90’+1’ LAG: Cristian Pavón (penalty)
45’+3’ HOU: Kiki Struna (yellow card)
59’ HOU: Darwin Quintero (yellow card)
70’ HOU: Oscar Boniek García (yellow card)
84’ LAG: Daniel Steres (yellow card)
Houston Dynamo (4-3-3): Marko Marić; Adam Lundqvist, Víctor Cabrera, Kiki Struna, Zarek Valentin; Memo Rodríguez (83’ Maynor Figueroa), Matías Vera, Oscar Boniek García (77’ Tommy McNamara); Darwin Quintero (83’ Tomás Martínez), Mauro Manotas (53’ Ronaldo Peña), Niko Hansen (77’ Nico Lemoine)
LA Galaxy (4-4-2): David Bingham; Emiliano Insúa (77’ Diedie Traore), Nicholas DePuy, Daniel Steres, Rolf Feltscher; Cristian Pavón, Perry Kitchen, Joe Corona (77’ Efrain Álvarez), Julian Araujo (61’ Emil Cuello); Sebastian Lleget, Ethan Zubak