The Houston Dynamo got their season kicked off at BBVA Stadium last Friday night with a 2-1 win over the visiting San Jose Earthquakes. The Dynamo looked in control for much of the game, but a wonder goal kept the ‘Quakes in it and made for a nail biting finish. Still, three points are three points and here are my three takeaways from Friday night’s opener.
1) The Houston Dynamo were shorthanded on defense and Tab Ramos decided to put Oscar Boniek García in at center back confusing just about everybody. The game plan was largely to press and win the ball in the midfield to take away possession from San Jose which took any pressure off the longtime Dynamo midfielder. This strategy eliminated any threat from the San Jose forwards in the first half and early into the second half.
This was a good plan as it gave the Dynamo a healthy supply of opportunities to score (more on that later) and took chances away from San Jose. The Dynamo looked in control and players like Joe Corona were threading long through passes into attacking players’ feet and the whole thing looked genius.
2) Credit where credit is due, San Jose adjusted brilliantly midway through the second half. They came out at half time better than they did in the first half, but the substitutions they made really came through for them. Matías Almeyda’s side knew that as the game wore on, with a two goal lead that Houston would sit deeper which opened up more possession and the opportunity to counter attack. Players like Shea Salinas and Paul Marie were particularly effective in those areas. Marie’s goal, which objectively was incredible, gave them life and they tried to increase that. Houston didn’t relent on trying to increase their lead throughout San Jose’s surge, but that leads us to our other quick thought.
3) Houston has to do better with its finishing. This game could’ve been 4-1, but finished a tense 2-1 with flashbacks of blown leads from not long ago fresh in Dynamo fans’ collective minds. There were several really good opportunities, and plenty of credit to the Dynamo for banging in two goals, but there were a few really close chances Houston had to bury this game instead of allowing San Jose to stay in it. Memo Rodríguez was in on goal at one point and banged one off the top of the crossbar and Maxi Urruti was free to slot one and knocked it basically right at the keeper. Now, both of these players scored in this game, but I think even they would agree they want those chances back.
Making those opportunities can be the difference between a win and a draw or a draw and a loss. Good teams make those and the Dynamo could’ve put the league on notice wit h a dominant 4-1 win putting doubt into everyone that thought this team wasn’t good enough. But even though they got the three points and played well enough, a lot of people will still have questions about this team going forward into week 2.