HOUSTON 2, COLUMBUS 0

5 kicks from Houston Dynamo vs. Columbus Crew SC

Oscar Boniek Garcia (center) was honored for surpassing 200 appearances for the Houston Dynamo. Photo by Diego Dlouhy/SportsMap Houston.

The Houston Dynamo got back to winning with a 2-0 result over Columbus Crew SC on Saturday. Mauro Manotas and Tomas Martinez were the goalscorers that helped the team rebound from their 2-1 away loss the previous week while the defense earned their first shutout of the year.

Here are five observations from the win:

HIGHLIGHTS: Houston Dynamo vs. Columbus Crew SC | April 27, 2019 www.youtube.com

1) Home sweet home

With the win, the Dynamo extended their undefeated home record this season to a 4-0-1 mark. At 5-1-1 overall, five wins in the first seven matches is the fastest run to that mark in club history so the team has plenty to be happy and feel confident about.

In the bigger picture, it is important that the team is defending their home turf again. Their 12-1-4 home record in 2017 was key to their first playoff season in four years and it's no coincidence that they missed the playoffs last season after losing six matches at home - on top of their bad form on the road.

With four of the next six matches to be contested inside the friendly confines of BBVA Compass Stadium, the Dynamo would have played more than half of their home schedule before the Gold Cup break in mid-June. That means that a heavy road schedule awaits the team on the other side including six out of eight over the course of a month between June 22 and July 20. The latter end of the schedule isn't any more forgiving so it's a good insurance policy to see the Dynamo rack up points here early.

2) First shutout of the season

Manager Wilmer Cabrera had expressed his desire to see his defense come away with a clean sheet earlier in the season. On Saturday, they delivered. Joe Willis came away with four saves and the defensive line of DeLaGarza, Struna, Figueroa and Lundqvist naturally look more confortable starting together in their fifth competitive match.

In this case, the shutout serves more for confidence and maybe goal differential later in the season as this Columbus team was no match for the Dynamo, even if they had pulled a goal back. The bigger test for the Houston defense will come when they face the league's elite attacking players and that's where the defense will earn their paychecks this year.

3) Manotas breaks scoring drought

The Dynamo's top goalscorer in 2018 came in to this match riding a four-match scoring drought. The Colombian wasn't an absentee in those games, rendering four assists in that stretch.

Ultimately, forwards will get judged for scoring goals and making impactful game-changing plays. In the previous game against LA Galaxy, the Dynamo's most challenging opponent this season, Manotas could not generate that type of moment and, in the match before that against San Jose, he missed a penalty. It's good to see him back on the scoresheet but the best of the young Colombian is yet to be seen, especially if he wants to be called up to the Colombian national team.

4) Martinez becoming elite?

EVERY ANGLE: Martinez's strike vs. Crew SC www.youtube.com

Tomas Martinez put up a team-high 13 assists in 2018 but, just by the eye-test, he looks more engaged this season. Reaching double digit assists isn't exactly a given but it is the standard for the team's no. 10. More importantly, he looks more confortable with better support behind him in defense.

Martinez still has another level to reach and it's still to early to say how much improvement he will make this season. If he is able to replicate the type of success we have seen from some of the league's best midfielders like Portland Timbers' Diego Valeri or even D.C. United's Luciano Acosta, the Dynamo would gain another dimension in attack that would really put them in business. Easier said than done, however, but there's definitely some positive signs.

5) Boniek celebrated for 200 appearances

Longtime Dynamo midfielder Oscar Boniek Garcia was celebrated right before kickoff for passing the mark of 200 games played with the club across all competitions (reached two weeks ago against San Jose). The 34-year-old has featured in every MLS match for the team this season and all but one across all competitions.

Unsure of his status with the club before the beginning of last season, Boniek has continued to provide the team with solid performances in midfield. He has undoubtedly stayed in the good graces of the manager, which is no surprise, given how many matches he's featured in over Cabrera's three season tenure - further showcasing the trust held in the Honduran legend.

How much longer can Boniek contribute to the club at this level? His professionalism and the way he's taken care of his body show no signs of that being anytime soon. Another 200 appearances may be too much to ask, however.

Dynamo player of the game: Joe Willis

Next up:

Saturday, May 4 vs FC Dallas (3 p.m. CT, Twitter / Univision)

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.

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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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