The Houston Dynamo followed up their draw with LAFC with another draw – this time with their in-state rivals, FC Dallas in the first game of the Texas Derby at Toyota Stadium. The game was a little mild by rivalry standards with both sides looking to improve on their 1-1-1 records at the time without conceding more goals. Without being too cliché, overall the game did have the “tale of two halves” narrative going for it. FC Dallas were clearly the winners of the first and Houston the winners of the second. Of course that means very little when both sides were level after the conclusion of both halves. Dynamo fans may have wanted a little more than just a point against a rival, but considering the next two games of the derby take place at BBVA Stadium, any reasonable supporter should shrug it off and look forward to the matches at home.
1) So speaking of that first half, it was bad. Tab Ramos made some changes with Tyler Pasher being rested after being listed as questionable on the injury report. That pushed Memo Rodríguez up from the midfield into the winger position with Derrick Jones filling in the midfield for Memo – sort of with Jones sitting deeper for stretches with Matías Vera occasionally pushing up. Oscar Boniek García was no longer the starting center back with the veteran Maynor Figueroa starting again.
Overall, the structure of the game plan was sound. The Dynamo began the game well above my own expectations with them pressing and covering passing lanes, but by the 5th minute it really fell apart. Dallas survived that initial volley of pressure and found ways to push the Dynamo back through their long passing which then allowed them to press against us. After that Houston was largely stuck inside its own half which was made worse by very poor passing when the Dynamo did have possession. That allowed Dallas to win the ball back and create chances. Yes, the Dynamo did well to earn the first goal off a penalty, but Dallas got it back pretty quickly and continued to apply plenty of pressure.
2) The second half was different for Houston. The passing got better, the spacing improved, and they were able to look more of a threat going forward. Defensively, they were about as good as the first, but quality passing takes an immense amount of pressure off of the defense since they have possession. Now, does that translate to offense? Not necessarily because of the need for creativity. The Dynamo were better at creating chances in the second half than the first, but it was always lacking that final pass or final touch to really get the ball into the net. The team should feel proud about how they rebounded from the first half, no doubt about it though. Things are coming together; it can just be frustrating to fans, players, and managers alike when it doesn’t come together all at once against a rival.
3) Tab Ramos has to get better with his substitutions. I know he’s used to coaching younger players and he likely puts a lot of trust in his first team selection, but he has to recognize when certain things aren’t working and when he needs to make changes tactically. For example, Memo Rodríguez, Matías Vera, and Joe Corona were on yellow cards for basically the entire second half. Memo was substituted in the 84th minute and Vera in stoppage time. Ramos’s first substitute was for Jones in the 72nd minute. Memo in particular was getting called for fouls pretty often and Vera is the kind of player to never give up on a play even if it means taking a card. Those changes needed to be made earlier, at least in my mind. Given the context of a double game week ahead with Sporting Kansas City and then the Colorado Rapids? You have to make those changes earlier, even in a derby. Those are two Western Conference opponents to contend with and tired legs can lead to injuries or not making necessary plays.