Welcome in, welcome back for another glorious serving of your Breakfast Links. There was [lenty of action from this weekend worth mentioning and I’ve consolidated the highlights for you. Avoid the heat outside and pick a nice cool spot indoors. Sit back and relax, we’ve got you covered. I’d like to take a minute to recognize our readers as well. You could be anywhere during your Monday morning (insert routine) but you’re here with us and we appreciate you for it. It’s because of the fans and this community that we get to be one of the leaders in providing coverage and you can always count on us to keep you in the know. Lots to digest, so without further delay lets dive right in.
Houston Dynamo took all 3 points against the Chicago Fire on Saturday night at PNC Stadium. This game was absolutely a must have, being 3 points from the bottom of league heading into this one. This win brings Houston to 21 points on the season, good for 8th place in the Western Conference standings (2 points behind Seattle for the #7 spot).
The Dynamo came out with a lineup we haven’t necessarily seen previously, but a welcome change all the same. Darwin Quintero and Thor Ulfarrson got the start out wide on the wings in the 4-2-3-1 with Sebastian Ferreira up top and Daniel Steres staring to give Tim Parker a bit of a rest (he would get some minutes as a sub in the 2nd half). We still have not seen Fafa Picault on the field for the last several games, which leaves us to assume the Fafa era is abruptly coming to an end, barring any unforeseen events. Darwin Ceren got the start over Coco Carrasquilla and put in a solid 90 minute shift to help the Dynamo keep the clean sheet. The 32-year-old registered a 7.7 player rating on FotMob, completing an impressive 90% of his passes (35 of 39), had 58 total touches, won 62% of his ground duels, 5 recoveries, 1 block and 2 clearances.
Thor Ulfarsson opened the scoring in the 23rd minute with a shot at the top left side of the 6-yard box. A good switch of play from Ceren to Steres and then to Zeca, found Memo Rodriguez on a dangerous overlapping run toward the endline. Memo picked his head up, took his time, and picked out the right pass, putting his cross directly in the path of Thor. Thor’s header was blocked by Fire defender Boris Sekulic but luckily it landed favorably for him, and he crushed it off the bounce, sending his half-volley ricocheting off Carlos Teran and into the back of the net. With the deflection off Teran, 18-year-old phenom,Gabriel Slonina had 0 chance at making the save.
The Dynamo came out a little bit slow to start the game but really adjusted well to Chicago’s gameplan and picked it up and pressed well toward the end of the 1st half. Darwin Quintero, what more can we say about how important he is for this club. The man, the myth, the legend, given his normal allotment of freedom in being able to move around the pitch with that 4-2-3-1 allowing him to create his own space and positioning. He found Adam Lundkvist out wide on the left and Lundy took one touch and sent a cross into the box. DQ made it back into the box by the time the cross arrived, somehow, and performed a nifty little move to get past the last defender and then buried his shot into the back left corner in the 45+2, beating the talented young keeper to give the Dynamo the 2-0 lead going into half time.
Chicago would have their chances with 17 shots to 11 for Houston but were unable to beat Steve Clark and the Dynamo defense. This was a huge match with league implications and the Dynamo have now tied their win total from the entirety of last season with 6. Much of the credit goes to head coach Paulo Nagamura and his ability to get the best in turning around this squad. I’ve said it many times, but I reiterate the fact that the Dynamo are making great strides and the positives are many.
Quintero scored his joint team-leading 6th goal on the season, Lundkvist got his team leading 4th assist, Thor is continuing to progress and becoming ever more dangerous. The Dynamo held most of the possession, put more shots on target than Chicago, and implemented the gameplan and made the correct half time adjustments. The Dynamo were a bit unlucky and could have taken this one with 3 or 4 to 0, but holding the clean sheet is extremely important. Being difficult to beat at home is a point the staff want to continue to drive home, and the Dynamo improved their home record to 4-3-2 on the season.
Houston has a short week and get right back into action on Wednesday for an away match against the Portland Timbers at 9:30 PM CT. The Timbers have won 2 of their last 11, and the Dynamo will come in riding high off the back of their impressive home performance, looking to take more points on the road to keep the momentum going.
The Houston Dash are currently enjoying their well-deserved rest and will return to league play on Friday July 1st for a home match against the Kansas City Current at 7:30 PM CT.
Houston Dynamo 2 remain unbeaten at Aveva Stadium as they ended their 3-game skid with a late and dramatic victory over a very solid Tacoma Defiance team, 1-0. This was one of this games head coach Kenny Bundy speaks about as far as the next man up. A complete team effort on both sides of the ball allowed Dynamo 2 to take this one at home and get back to their winning ways.
Not even a minute into the match, center back Micael dos Santos Silva launched a pass over the back line and found Kyle Edwards all alone and in on goal, but the Tacoma keeper would make an excellent save. Jacob Evans had had a solid 58 minute shift on the evening, completing an impressive 92.9 % of his passes. The Kyle Edwards and Papa N’Doye (feared by all, caught by none) combo up top continues to flourish into something special as the two feed off each other’s energy and pace while creating extreme difficulties for all opposing defenses. Kyle Edwards led the team with 14 duels won and Papa led the team in total shots, both nearly scoring on several occasions.
Mujeeb Murana suits up and brings a level of consistency every time he hits the field, and it’s hard to get praise playing out wide in the back, but his quality does not go unnoticed. His solid 90 minute shift on Sunday evening saw a solid 76.5% passing accuracy out of the back. So much can be said about the captain Talen Maples engages his fellow teammates, with a sense of compassion but also as a leader. It is his voice you hear from the group as the warm-ups take place; words of encouragement, getting the guys hyped pre-game, keeping the team focused, directing traffic, and making sure the formations stay nice and tight. He’s stepped up and continues to be the glue that binds this squad.
I couldn’t write about Dynamo 2 without also mentioning, Juan Castilla, “The Hand That Guides”. This kid is unbelievable and displays a maturity for the game that you’d expect to see from a wily veteran. Juan put in a hard night’s work on Sunday evening, playing all 90 minutes and completing a very solid 85.4% of his passes. More often than not, Castilla is always finding a way to create for his teammates and getting them in a position to score goals. He’s extremely accurate when it comes to putting the ball in on the cross and is is normally called upon when there is a corner to be taken. As we’ve seen in previous weeks, Castilla can put the ball exactly where it needs to be. It’s always exciting to see him help control the game from his midfield position.
Brooklyn Raines continues to show what he’s capable of, putting in another excellent 90 minute shift of his own, completing a robust 91.3% of his passes while winning 50% of his duels. Brooklyn has made huge strides developing his game, and the consensus is he will join the 1st team in some capacity next season. He will need to continue to show that he can earn that opportunity and be an asset for the 1st team and their plans going forward.
Sunday night was also another excellent outing for Reese Miller as well. Sometimes it’s easy for performances to go under the radar with the amount of quality on the pitch at any one time, but it can’t be stated enough about the progress this youngster is making as well. Miller has all the backing and belief in the world from coach Bundy, who speaks Miller’s praises having worked with him since he was 14 years old. It’s important to see those connections and see what it means to the coach to have players progress and take their games to the next level.
Diego Rosas is another name that came on as a sub and made an almost instant impact, nearly scoring a few minutes after entering the match. The ever versatile Jathan Juarez came on as a sub in this one, and it doesn’t matter where you play him necessarily, because he can play several positions and he can play them well. Having a player you can depend on to bring that type of versatility and quality no matter where you need him, that is a massive advantage when it comes to the tactical thinking and setting up the gameplan. Jathan only played 27 minutes but per usual, he pushes for the most duels and best percentage every time he takes the field. On Sunday evening he had 7 duels in his brief appearance and won an excellent 71.4% of those duels.
Last but most certainly not least, Marcelo Palomino (The Truth), was the match hero. In a game that looked destined for penalty kicks, Dynamo 2 would earn one last free kick as the final seconds ticked off the clock. From about 30 yards out, Marcelo used the decoy but was always going to be the one to take the shot. Palomino was aware of the water accumulation on the pitch in certain spots and brilliantly used this to his advantage. He smashed a low screaming curler with his right foot and skipped it off the wet grass just before reaching the keeper, making it next to impossible to handle. The goal gave Dynamo 2 the late winner in the 89th minute. Goalkeeper Andrew Pannenberg came up huge in his 2nd start and finished with his first clean sheet of the season.
Dynamo 2 will look to continue their excellent team play and carry that momentum to their next match. They will be back at it on the West coast for an away match against San Jose Earthquakes 2 on July 1st .
Major League Soccer
This has been the year; things have really begun to elevate as far as the status of Major League Soccer for the good. More big names, more massive record shattering transactions for clubs, this league is on the way up, and with the World Cup just over the horizon it’s going to jumpstart the following even more. This is the league’s chance to take off to new heights as far as attracting high-level talent into the league.
Of course, many of us are aware of the Hector Herrera acquisition by the Houston Dynamo and the Mexican is set to make his debut at home on July 9th against FC Dallas. Toronto FC made a shocking move to bring in 31-year-old Napoli legend Lorenzo Insigne. The quality he will bring to this league is immense and he will be a force for Toronto starting soon. Atlanta United hit a game winning home run in the bottom of the 9th and somehow managed to acquire Thiago Almada’s signature solidifying an already solid lineup over in Atlanta. The LA Galaxy added 31-year-old Douglas Costa, no introductions need be made for this Bayern and Juventus star. FC Dallas added Alan Velasco to pair up with Jesus Ferreria. Then you have the Chicago Fire and their signing of the extremely class Bayern and Milan workhorse, Xherdan Shaqiri. LAFC have displayed the shock and awe and have not only brought on the historically class Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini, but also just recently announced the signing of Gareth Bale directly from Real Madrid. The most impressive part of that is they were able to do it and not use up their remaining Designated Player spot, so they can still add a DP quality player to those incredibly impressive ranks (which their coach says they are currently looking to fill). LAFC were also able to finally get the deal done and re-sign Carlos Vela to a new contract that had been up in the air prior to the press release.
In MLS action this weekend, LAFC took on the New York Red Bulls in a hgh profile “east coast vs west coast” match up. There would be no VAR for this match because of technical issues, which is inexcusable. The league must be better in making sure the standard is protected regardless of which venue is used or unforeseen errors, there needs to be a backup plan in place for instances such as these. Cristian Arango scored 4 minutes after coming into the game in the 68th minute, showing why it’s difficult to set the lineup without his being a part of it. Carlos Vela provided a beautiful assist, finding Arango in on goal. Since August of 2021, Arango is one of only 2 players to score more than 19 goals in MLS (Valentin Castellanos of NYCFC is the other). Coming from a Red Bulls corner, a steal by Arango and his ridiculously impressive 40-yard bomb of a pass to Brian Rodriguez, sent him on a breakaway in transition. Rodriguez cut-back inside to find an open Diego Palacios and Diego calmly faked the shot once and then buried his left-footed shot into the back right corner to give LAFC the 2-0 lead in the 70th minute. This was LAFC’s 2nd goal in just 90 seconds as they dominated the Red Bulls 2-0. LAFC are really starting to open it up and added to their current lead in the Western Conference. They now sit at 36 points (7 points above the 2nd spot, Real Salt Lake).