What a weekend for Houston sports fans! We hope you enjoyed your weekend, and we welcome you back for the start of another glorious week. We realize you could be reading anywhere during your Monday morning (insert routine), but you are here with us, and we appreciate you for it. Lots to digest from the weekend and I have consolidated some of the highlights for you. Any statistics mentioned in this article were acquired via FotMob. Without further ado, let’s dive right in.
The Houston Dynamo took on the LA Galaxy Sunday night coming in as road underdogs against the high-flying Galaxy. The Dynamo came out in a 4-4-2 with Sebastian Ferreira and Thor Ulfarsson up top to change things up. To start the match off LA would have Chicharito and Douglas Costa on the bench and the Dynamo would look to take advantage of that early on. The Dynamo brought their warrior mentality into this one with the high press and high intensity from the starting whistle to the end of the match. LA would have several chances on the night registering a 1.34 xG on the night, while the Dynamo registered a 1.47 xG. The Dynamo would have a few early chances get away from them, but they would not take their foot off the gas.
In the 11th minute Memo Rodriguez would send in a devastating and beautifully weighted through ball to Corey Baird but his shot on goal was saved and then spilled directly to Sebas Ferreria. The Paraguayan calmly chipped keeper Jonathan Bond and tapped into the empty net to give the Dynamo the early lead. The Galaxy would ramp up the pressure and possession with the time in the first half winding down. The Dynamo “bend but do not break” structure was able to stave off the LA onslaught and took the early lead going into the break.
The 2nd half was all Houston Dynamo. Not in possession or some of the other statistics normally used to gauge the temperature of a match, but where it mattered most, they would capitalize on several of the opportunities that they created. Shortly after taking the field in the 56th minute, Tyler Pasher would make his presence known in illustrious fashion. Sebas Ferreria found Pash “Money” on the wing, and he would create space making several quick cutbacks toward the top of the box to set up his preferred left-foot. He wrapped his foot around the ball and blistered a screaming curler from outside the top of the box and into the top left corner of the net. Bond never stood a chance as Pasher used his defenders as a screen and by the time he laid eyes on the ball it was far too late to react in any sort of meaningful way.
The Galaxy would finally bring on Chicharito and Douglas Costa in the 59th minute searching for any sort of spark but the Dynamo really began to kick into high gear in the 2nd half showing some of their most impressive play of the season so far. Thor Ulfarsson needed a goal in the worst way to help promote his confidence going forward and he would have several opportunities that he would send high or wide. In the 62nd minute Sebas Ferreria would yet again find the perfect quality through ball to release Thor Ulfarsson, who completed a blinding 3 step-over move followed by a quick cut to the left and unloaded all his frustration in one titanic blast with his left up and into the crossbar and in beating the keeper near post to give the Dynamo the 3-0 lead.
It cannot be understated the way the Dynamo have been playing recently and even without 2 of their best playmakers, just put in one of their best performances of the season. Quality was all over the pitch on the night as absolutely everyone contributed and picked each other up with positivity and their ability to take care of business on the road is a sign of good things to come.
Steve Clark had a phenomenal game making 6 saves on the night and keeping LA Galaxy and their 1.34 xG to an impressive shut out as he was called on several times, especially in the 1st half, to make huge saves and he would not disappoint. Sebas Ferreria had his best all-around performance in a Dynamo uniform registering a red-hot 9.4 player rating and claiming man of the match and justifiably so. Sebas played all 90 minutes, scored a goal, and had 2 assists on the night with a very impressive performance. He also had 4 total shots on the night, which can be attributed to the Dynamo starting to play better team ball that they struggled to do early in the season, but we are starting to see that number climb. Sebas completed 83 % of his passes, put 3 of 4 of his shots on target and even hit the woodwork with a beautiful header that narrowly missed coming back down in time to clear the crossbar. He completed 67% of his long balls accurately and was successful on 50% of his dribbles while also winning 50% of his ground duels.
Darwin Ceren also continues to put in quality defensive performances when called upon as the Dynamo really protected their box well on the evening. Teenage Hadebe is managing to expand his radius and get a touch on any ball that comes near him. He did show a little recklessness collecting another yellow card, but he smartly kept that to a minimum knowing what was at stake on the road. Zeca also put in another solid performance with his 89 minutes played. He completed 69% of his passes, handled 51 touches, had 3 clearances (2 headed), 4 recoveries, 2 dribbles past, 1 block and won 62% of his ground duels as he looks to continue the solid play and cement his spot in the starting 11.
The Dynamo were too much for the LA Galaxy to handle, on both ends of the ball the Dynamo were the better team. In a complete performance from all the guys, it is truly inspiring to see how Coach Nagamura has the team performing on such a beautifully cohesive level. The Dynamo are picking up steam at the right time as far as working together as a single unit and the performances the players are putting together show the progress every time they step on the field.
They will not get much time to relish in the victory as they immediately travel to take on Sporting KC on Wednesday May 25, 2022, in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup round of 16.
The Houston Dash owned the first 10 minutes of their match against the Portland Thorns with good aggression and pressing that produced a few chances in the box for Haley Hanson, Shea Groom and Nichelle Prince. It would be 11 minutes before Portland managed to maintain any sort of possession. The Thorns tried to make the most of those early chances as Raquel Rodriguez found Yazmeen Ryan open in the middle and she’d let fly, making excellent contact but Jane Campbell was able to dig out the early save to help keep the game level.
Portland would threaten early again when Yazmeen Ryan’s headed pass found Morgan Weaver who fired goalward only to have the ball saved off the line in the 16th minute. Maria Sanchez was devastating on the ball leaving defenders on the ground as she produced and provided well for her teammates for the entirety of her 67 minutes, not to mention her remarkable defense. The possession and momentum would swing in Portland’s favor at the first half-hour mark as Portland looked to stretch the field and make the Dash chase.
Rachel Daly turned her right ankle while attempting a through ball with her left in the 34th minute. She was able to fight through it and came right back on the field. In first half stoppage time Nichelle Prince would find Rachel Daly in on goal with a beautifully weighted through ball where she made several quick inside cuts to her right before sending her right-footed shot into the back of the net at the near post. Just as calm as you would like, to give the Dash the lead in the dying moments of the first half.
The 2nd half was all Dash as they would really turn up the pressure. Their quality on the ball, sharpness and accuracy of their combo play grew stronger and more dangerous as the game progressed. Haley Hanson was able to find an open Sophie Schmidt in the box. She was able to hold off contact from the defender giving chase and laced a titanic blast with her right into the top right corner as she was knocked off her feet mid-shot, beating keeper Bella Bixby at her near post in the 66th minute. The shot was struck so pure and clean that all Bixby could do was shake her head as she came up empty-handed in her futile attempt to make a save on that rocket of a shot.
It was all downhill for the Dash after that as they neatly and methodically took the air out of the ball to finish off this very impressive 2-0 away victory against the Portland Thorns. Sophie Schmidt was the player of the match with an 8.5 rating, but it does need to be mentioned that every Dash starter registered at least a 7.0 rating as they played well as a whole. Rachel Daly, Jane Campbell, and Haley Hanson all joined Sophie Schmidt as players that registered 8.0 or higher ratings for the match. The Houston Dash look like they have started to get all their talent on the same page and will look to continue the solid team play going forward. They will be back at home on May 29th to take on the North Carolina Courage at 7:30 PM.
Houston Dynamo 2 were off this week and will return to action on May 25th for an away game against the Real Monarchs.
Major League Soccer
After 2 separate inclement weather delays of just under 4 total hours, LAFC were eager to get their match with the Columbus Crew started. Fresh off their 2-game skid, courtesy of Austin and Colorado, LAFC were looking for that get-right game against a struggling Crew. The Crew had only one win in their last 9 league games and did not see their luck get any better on Saturday evening. LAFC would take care of business as they dismantled the Crew by a score of 2-0.
The Crew did have more of the ball with 65% of the possession and would have their chances on the night registering a 0.91 xG. Yaw Yeboah also had a goal disallowed for being offside in the 58th minute. Unfortunately for the Crew, LAFC were much more efficient with their 35% of the possession and registered a healthy 1.77 xG on the evening. LA were able to be extremely quick in transition in the 2nd half as their 2 goals came from subs made after the break.
With the recent heavy schedule, LAFC were rotating players to rest some tired legs, but their star would have an impact 16 minutes after stepping on the field. In the 62nd minute the Crew would play an errant back pass and Carlos Vela would make them pay for their mistake just as he has done 72 other times for LAFC. He beat the defender to the ball and in a show of great strength and balance, used his body to shield the ball and take the contact as he and last man back came shoulder to shoulder and Vela would be the one left standing. He quickly collected his balance and sent in his left-footed shot, low and driven around keeper Eloy Room to give LAFC the much-needed breathing room.
Their 2nd goal came from 2nd half substitute, Jose Cifuentes, who scored the game’s 2nd unassisted goal of the night. Columbus Crew keeper Eloy Room made a horrible mistake when he sent a pass out of the box toward midfield on a short lackadaisical pass that Cifuentes would pick off, catching them all off guard. He methodically diced his way toward goal with a beautiful cut-back to the left to avoid one diving Columbus defender and sent his left-footed shot straight through the center of the box and in between the diving keeper and the last diving defender to give LAFC the 2-0 lead. That is how this one would remain at full time and LAFC got the get-right game they were looking for placing them at the top of the Western Conference standings
Around The World
Everything was set for chaos to ensue on the final day of the Premier League as Liverpool needed a win and a Manchester City draw or loss to steal the title on the final climactic day. Liverpool started out flat-footed and Wolves were able to take an early lead. To add to the drama, Aston Villa would come out firing grabbing the early lead over City in the 37th from a Matty Cash quality finish and would even take a 2-0 lead early in the second half. Liverpool kept the pedal to the metal against Wolves to try take care of their part of the equation that would see them victors, hoisting silverware at days end. It would be an 84th minute goal by Mo Salah that would finally give them the lead over Wolves.
By that time, Manchester City had erased their 2-goal deficit with a historically monstrous 5 minutes of play that saw 3 Manchester City goals (Ilkay Gundogan 76th, 81st and Rodri 78th) to secure the title and claim bragging rights as the 2021-2022 Premier League Champions, no easy feat.
Leeds were able to score at the absolute death, beating Brentford 2-1 and saving their season at the last possible moment. They will now remain in the Premier League next season and Burnley, Watford and Norwich are the unfortunate souls to be served with relegation paperwork following the conclusion of this 2022 season.
Tottenham were able to ride out their rocky mid-season form and finish strong, as well as have a little luck around them, to obtain that number 4 spot and with it a ticket to next seasons Champions League competition. Chelsea (3rd) and Liverpool (2nd) will join them and City in the UCL. Arsenal (5th) and Manchester United (6th) have qualified for Europa League competition next season and West Ham (7th) will have to settle for Europa Conference League qualification. Some consider it a disappointing season but for the other 14, staying up in the EPL will have to be sufficient.
Kylian Mbappe is not going anywhere, PSG have made him an offer he could not refuse. The 26- year-old world-renowned phenom shocked the world this weekend as he signed a 3-year extension through the end of the 2025 season to stay with PSG. With a signing bonus in the neighborhood of $125 million and a monthly salary of $5 million, which doubles his current PSG salary. In conjunction with the massive salary boost, Kylian has also been promised a lot of say on final decisions within the club as far as hiring and firing of players and staff in this unprecedented move by PSG. La Liga, now having been snubbed on Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe, plan to take legal action against PSG, filing a complaint with UEFA.
The UEFA Champions League Final between Real Madrid and Liverpool takes place on May 28th at the Stade de France. You can catch this match on CBS Sports or Paramount+ at 2pm CT. Will Liverpool use their recent snub in the EPL as motivation to take down the ever-dangerous Real Madrid or will Real Madrid complete the historic season with another piece of coveted silverware? The last 5 times these 2 have met, Real Madrid have won 4 times and they drew once.
Huddersfield Town and Nottingham Forest from the English Championship league will meet in the promotional playoff on May 29th. The winner will go up to the top league, joining Fulham and Bournemouth who have already punched their tickets for a trip to the Premier League next season. Some fans wait a lifetime and still never get to feel the elation of having their team being promoted to the highest-level England has to offer. One thing is for certain, come May 29th one of these fanbases will be full of jubilee on their way to EPL and one will be left head in hands searching for answers. They will be left pondering if their club can make a similar run the following season or had they just witnessed a once in a lifetime promotion fly out the window.
Find out next weekend on May 29th as this match that promises to bring all the drama. Huddersfield Town will go into this one having not lost in their last 9 fixtures. Nottingham Forest have not kept a clean sheet in their previous 5 and will look to complete the Cinderella story.