Houston Dynamo FC got their first road trip of the season kicked off with a tense and close 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers at Providence Park. The Dynamo deployed the same lineup they started and succeeded with their season opener against the San Jose Earthquakes, but weren’t able to replicate the results in their week 2 matchup. Here are a few of my brief observations about the match that I caught, but please let us know your opinions in the comment section below.
1) The Dynamo weren’t poor in this game and executed well at times, but there were two sections that negatively stood out and those were the beginning and the ending. The tactics for both were largely conservative which is typical on away trips, but surrendering so much space in the midfield along with turnovers in the midfield provided Portland chances to possess, press, and gain opportunities.
Early in the game, the strategy was likely to try and set a defensive tone and pounce on the counter, but by sitting as deep as they were – along with a ton of turnovers before the ball could get to the forwards - they gave the Timbers opportunities which they collected on in their opening goal. Later in the game, the Dynamo seemed defeated or checked out: mentally and physically. This surrendered space in the midfield rather than help press for an equalizer and supplied Portland with at least a pair of quality chances to increase their lead. Despite solid play for the majority of the game, these moments were defining as they conceded the first goal and then the deciding goal.
2) On the positive side, the Dynamo adjusted very well after conceding the opening goal. They possessed the ball better by not turning it over as often in the midfield and found a ton of success through Tyler Pasher when he was moved to the right side of the field which Pasher exploited with his speed, dribbling, and service. The second half we stepped off the gas after equalizing and weren’t able to find Pasher as well as we had in the first half of the game. Credit to Portland for marking him more effectively, but it was a lower octane second half for both sides which led to long lulls before Portland struck their game winner.
3) I don’t think I’m the only one here, but I think the Oscar Boniek García at center back experiment should end. Is that to say he’s been awful? Of course not, the Dynamo have a win and a loss in the short time with him there. He even earned a MLS Team of the Week nod after week 1. But he puts a lot of pressure on his other defenders when he pushes up into the attack. He is quick to try and cut out attacks rather than slow them. Slowing opponents by simply getting in front of them rather than making a play allows other defenders to get into position so at times he was a liability. This kind of defending isn’t poor as a midfielder and at times is an asset as a CB when he’s successful, but it can leave the back line exposed if unsuccessful. It wasn’t poor defending overall, but his style allowed Portland to play accurate long passes over the top when he was out of position which was an issue.