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, 2019www.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 Galaxywww.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]

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome