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]

ELIS INJURED IN COMEBACK WIN

5 kicks from Houston Dynamo's 2-1 win over D.C. United

Credit Trask Smith/Houston Dynamo

The Houston Dynamo withstood Wayne Rooney's D.C. United plus an injury to star player Alberth Elis on their way to their seventh win of the season. El Campo native Memo Rodriguez and off-season signing Thomas McNamara scored in the 67th and 68th minutes, respectively, to lead the club to a comeback victory.

Here are five observations from the win:

1) Call it a comeback

HIGHLIGHTS: Houston Dynamo vs. D.C. United | May 18, 2019 youtu.be

Both the Dynamo and D.C. United were undefeated this season in matches where they took the lead first. Houston's record was 1-1-2 when giving up the first goal.

On Saturday night, they didn't need to rely on the advantage of opening up the scoreline. Wayne Rooney scored the match's first goal right after the start of the second half before the Dynamo turned on the pressure in attack.

Perhaps the most impressing part of the result was doing it without the wide threats of Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto on the field. Instead it was their substitutes, coincidentally, that drove home the victory.

2) Winning without Elis

Alberth Elis took a headbutt to the side of his skull at the start of the match when he and D.C. United defender Steve Birnbaum jumped to dispute a ball in the air. Both players were taken out to the sidelines to get checked, Birnbaum had his head taped after bleeding, and were eventually allowed to return.

It would be minutes later that Elis asked for his substitution, which came in the 11th minute, and was subsequently taken to the locker room for a further evaluation. Despite passing the MLS concussion protocol, the Honduran playmaker wasn't well enough to continue the match.

Elis has been the most influential player for the team this season and a win without him will be a confidence booster. The big question now will be how long the team will be without one their most important contributors.

3) Memo leads the way

An inspired Memo Rodriguez was key to the Dynamo overturning the deficit at home, helping the team avoid a three-match winless streak. The homegrown midfielder took the responsibility of providing a spark in attack by creating his own shooting opportunity.

His goal in the 67th minute injected energy into the crowd at BBVA Compass Stadium and into his team. The Dynamo quickly went for another score and got it just a minute later.

With five goals and two assists, Rodriguez is enjoying his best season for the club. He'll likely pass his career high for minutes played in one season during the first half of the following match - eight games sooner than what it took him to reach that mark last year.

4) A win for Maynor

Defender Maynor Figueroa missed Saturday's match due to his father's passing on Wednesday night. The Honduran defender was on the field for the Dynamo against Timbers FC when the news broke in his home country.

The club showed solidarity with the seven-year Premier League veteran by dedicating the match to him in their pregame team photo. Figueroa joined the team in the off-season after three years at rival FC Dallas and has appeared in the majority of the Dynamo starting lineups this year.

Alejandro Fuenmayor took Figueroa's place in Saturday's starting XI and is expected to continue until Figueroa's return. The Dynamo have two league games left before this summer's Concacaf Gold Cup, a tournament Figueroa is expected to feature in for Honduras.

5) Rooney draws crowd but no sellout

Manchester United and England National Team Legend Wayne Rooney was in town with D.C. United. His appearance, unfortunately for the Dynamo, did very little for the gate in comparison to the visits of other league draws like LA's Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Several Manchester United jerseys were seen in what was announced to be a crowd of 15,811 attendees at the 22,000 capacity stadium. That number is only the third highest crowd seen this year after the opening match and the derby against FC Dallas.

The three-time World Cup veteran and former UEFA Champions League winner held up his end with a goal in the 46th minute and, despite the loss, has helped D.C. to a top spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Still, hope is bleak if a player of his stature has that little effect on the overall Houston soccer market - if they even knew he was in town.

Dynamo player of the game: Memo Rodriguez

Next up:

Saturday, May 25 at Minnesota United FC (7:00 p.m. CT, KUBE57) [ESPN+ for U.S. non-Houston markets]

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