Houston 1, LA 2

5 kicks from Houston Dynamo at LA Galaxy

The Houston Dynamo played in special edition adidas x Parley eco-friendly kits as part a league-wide Earth Day celebration. (Photo by: Amador Lerma/Houston Dynamo)

The Houston Dynamo suffered their first league loss of the season in a 1-2 result at LA Galaxy on Friday night. The nationally televised affair featured two top five teams in the Western Conference where star forwards Zlatan Ibrahimović and Alberth Elis traded penalties. The match was decided in the 88th minute when LA's Diego Polenta scored the game-winner on a corner kick.

Here are five observations from the loss:

HIGHLIGHTS: Houston Dynamo at LA Galaxy | April 19, 2019 www.youtube.com

1) Back to the road woes?

The Dynamo have found it difficult to win on the road in recent years, with a 2-19-5 record during Manager Wilmer Cabrera's first two seasons with the club. The Dynamo won their first road test of this season last month with a 4-0 result at the Colorado Rapids. Friday, however, was their first test against quality opposition.

Houston certainly looked a more confident side away from home and one with a bit of swagger to push forward. The team had plenty of opportunities to see out the win and wasn't the "counter attacking team" they were labeled as being.

They were five minutes away from coming away with at least a point but could not hold on to the result. The main positive is that it looks like the Dynamo will fare better on the road this season. Until they start delivering more wins, however, they haven't proven anything yet.

2) Loss was not A.J. DeLaGarza's fault

Defender A.J. DeLaGarza got the major share of the blame from fans. AJD was the player who fouled Ibrahimović to concede a penalty in the 29th minute, which was then converted into a 1-0 Galaxy lead, and was also the player beat on a corner to concede the game-winner in the 88th minute.

Given the spotlight on him on the night, it's easy to point the finger but it also doesn't get decided by those plays if the Dynamo had taken care of business on the attacking front. DeLaGarza does look like he's lost a step or two from his best years, naturally at 31 years of age, but he is still the best player available at the right back position.

3) Lacking effectiveness

Dynamo "have to capitalize" on opportunities in loss to LA Galaxy www.youtube.com

Dynamo Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera said after the match, "We created the chances but we lacked effectivity to make simple passes and give the best-positioned player, in that situation, the opportunity to score...and in these types of games, you have to capitalize those opportunities."

Quite possibly, the biggest thing the team is lacking is a difference maker - whether that be a midfielder or a forward. LA Galaxy has one in Ibrahimović, other teams around the league have on as well - LAFC with Carlos Vela, D.C. United with Wayne Rooney, Toronto FC with Alejandro Pozuelo, etc. Alberth Elis and Mauro Manotas have shown the potential of being that type of player but only when they do it consistently - and that means against quality teams as well, not just against the league's bottom feeders like Colorado and San Jose - can the Dynamo elevate their game to another level.

To put it in simple terms, the Dynamo needed a moment of brilliance to come away with the three points on Friday night - that moment never came.

4) Team is improved, but how much?

Offseason additions Aljaž "Kiki" Struna, Maynor Figueroa and Matías Vera have given the team more stability in defense. That much was seen earlier in the season but also confirmed against a team that can pose some danger like LA. The Dynamo, barring a catastrophe, will not finish 9th in the West like last season but that also doesn't mean they'll be among the top teams at the end of the year.

The potential of this team still remains a mystery and we'll know more in the coming weeks as they face stronger opponents and as they add players returning from injury like Juan David Cabezas, who played 11 minutes at LA, and Romell Quioto, who has been out for the past three matches and missed on the attacking front. If and when these players reclaim their place in the starting XI, that's when we'll be able to see the Dynamo firing on all cylinders.

5) How will the Dynamo respond?

The Dynamo have five matches scheduled over the course of the next month, four of those at home. Their opponents: Columbus Crew, FC Dallas, Seattle Sounders (away), Portland Timbers and D.C. United.

This stretch of games will be a better barometer of where the Dynamo are among their peers. They will be expected to defend their home turf but that will be easier said than done. They've gotten a good start to the season, which is the biggest positive, and coming out with a winning record will set them up well for a summer where they are expected to lose players to international competition.

Dynamo player of the game: Alberth Elis

"La Panterita" (little panther) earned the penalty that put the Dynamo on the scoreboard and was the player that provided the most danger to LA's defense.

Next up:

Saturday, April 27th vs Columbus Crew SC (7:30 p.m. CT, KUBE57) [ESPN+ for U.S. non-Houston markets]

Credit: Wilf Thorne/Houston Dynamo

Houston Dynamo Senior Vice President/General Manager Matt Jordan addressed questions from fans during the first hour of Soccer Matters with Glenn Davis on Tuesday night. Among the topics of conversation were potential player signings, concerns with player development and club operations.

The following are excerpts from the Q&A with callers to the program:

Potential Transfers

On why the Dynamo has not gone after a big name player that can fill BBVA Stadium

We're very open and we have had discussion with "big name players" ... For us, it's about getting the right players and I truly believe, through my experiences, you also have stars that grow within the league. We've seen that with our team with Alberth Elis, with Mauro Manotas - from my time in Montreal, we saw that with Ignacio Piatti. These weren't "big name stars" but they became "big name stars" so we look at all of it. We look at making our own stars, we look at some players that have been on the biggest stages and maybe a bit older but, for us, it's analyzing what's the right fit.

On the suggestion of a player like Mexico National Team Captain Andres Guardado

A lot of fans will say, "bring a big name, a Messi or Ronaldo" and that's not always realistic in the world of soccer but those are the types of profiles we do continue to look at along with making our own stars as well, which I think we've done a good job of with the two players I mentioned, who are stars in the city of Houston now.

On the reports of Cruz Azul's interest in Dynamo forward Mauro Manotas

We're getting interest in a lot of our young talented players. The two players that everyone talks about is Mauro Manotas and Alberth Elis, there's also a handful of other players that we get inquiries of from abroad. A lot of the teams in the Mexican league follow our teams very closely and Cruz Azul did express interest in Mauro... [a potential transfer] has to make sense for the player, it has to make sense for the club

Player Development

On the investment in the Houston Dynamo Academy

With the support of our ownership group, over the last 18 months, have made significant investments in the academy. We hired a new academy director in Paul Holocher, we brought on what I believe are some of the brightest young coaches in the Unites States. We've really worked very hard to strengthen our partnerships and our strategic alliances here within the city of Houston, which I believe has really been a downfall of ours in the past.

On the possibility of having a locally-based USL team

We have. One thing I can tell you, we have our USL players, our academy players, our U23 players in and out with the first team all the time. With the Open Cup, we brought up several of our USL players. You'll see a couple of our USL players come up for our League's Cup game as well... of course, it's more ideal to have it next to our first team field but we're very proud of the partnership in the [Rio Grande] Valley.

Club Policies

On the Dynamo's scouting system for recruiting players for the first team...

We do have a scout in Europe that's paid by us, we have a scout in South America that's paid by us and I also have a full-time scout and analyst, here, that is in Houston working with us in our recruitment department.

What we do is we go through the annual scouting calendar, we prioritize what events we need to hit. Generally speaking, I only travel when we get to the point - myself or [Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera] or both of us together, a lot of time we'll travel together in the offseason. We only really travel when we get to [final stages of a transfer].

We use our regional contacts...What I really focus on is having one key contact in each country and, a lot of times, we go after the player, it's not that the player is presented to us by the agent. [Recent signing Jose Bizama] is a prime example, we went after Bizama and we approached the club through our process. Now, there's times where a player is presented to us as well, but more often then not we utilize those regional contacts in each country. There's a lot of times, with many of our players, we've identified them or we've gone after them when they're, maybe, not for sale and that's when the grinding starts to take place for the negotiation.

On the club hosting a town hall meeting with supporters

In this moment, I can't speak for ownership but I have no problem being in any setting and fielding questions about the team for the fans.

---

The entire conversation is available on the July 16, 2019 episode of the podcast, which can be heard on iTunes, Google Podcasts and www.podcastarena.com/soccermatters/

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