Houston 1, Portland 1

5 kicks from Houston Dynamo's 1-1 draw with Timbers FC

Courtesy Houston Dynamo

The Houston Dynamo were held to a 1-1 draw by the Portland Timbers on Wednesday night at BBVA Compass Stadium. Mauro Manotas opened the scoring for Houston in the 40th minute. Portland tied it in the 77th thanks to Liga MX's second top scorer for the Clausura 2019 season, Brian Fernandez, in his MLS debut.

Here are five observations from the win:

1) A missed opportunity

The Dynamo will lament dropping two points at home to a club that has never left Houston with a win. Add on top of that the detail that Portland has played its entire schedule, up to this point, on the road.

The Timbers should've been ripe for the pickings against a Dynamo that has been strong at home and had won every league match except one coming into this game. That non-win was a draw in the home opener against Real Salt Lake, nothing to get too worked up about as both teams were in early season form.

This draw will sting, however, because the Dynamo took the lead and had an opportunity to jump up to second place in the Western Conference standings. Clubs like D.C. United and Sporting KC, with an away game to Minnesota United sandwiched in between, are what's next on the schedule and Portland's performance will give away teams confidence to leave BBVA Compass Stadium with a positive result.

2) Beasley returns as part of lineup rotation

Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera made three changes from the starting XI at Seattle on Sunday. The lineup rotation is due to the team's schedule of three matches in a week.

The most notable of the changes was the return of DaMarcus Beasley at left back. The U.S. Men's National Team Legend and team captain had yet to play in league matches and was sidelined during the team's Concacaf Champions League elimination at Tigres UANL in March.

Aljaz "Kiki" Struna, one of the team's biggest offseason acquisitions, also returned to the starting XI being left out of the team that traveled to Seattle. Boniek Garcia also returned as a starter after featuring as a sub in the 1-0 away loss over the weekend.

3) Manotas the Timberslayer

Mauro Manotas now has seven regular season goals against Timbers FC, his highest against an MLS club. He's also enjoyed his only MLS hat-trick as well as an important playoff performance against Portland.

More to the context of this season, Manotas picked up his fifth goal to ascend as the team's top scorer. The Colombian continues his way towards another high scoring season as he complements the playmaking of Alberth Elis.

He scored with his chest which only further emphasizes his knack to find the back of the net no matter the fashion. He will be needed again on Sunday as D.C. United visit with one of the world's famed goalscorers in Wayne Rooney.

4) Dependence on Elis

As much as Manotas deserves praise for his goals with the Dynamo, it is Alberth Elis who has been the team's most valuable player. Elis has banked four goals and five assists.

Manotas himself has five goals and four assists but Elis would be missed more on the field if the team were to lose one of the two. Elis has been a player teams absolutely have to account for and, when he is contained - as we've seen in the two Dynamo losses this year and the draw on Wednesday, the team struggles to yield wins.

Nobody should be surprised that Elis has been the focal point of opposing defenses, it was expected. What is surprising is that the Dynamo have yet to respond to that strategy and punish teams for being asked to win without him - not to mention prepare in case of the Honduran's departure in the summer transfer window.

5) Big Joe with big saves

During Cabrera's tenure as the Manager of the Dynamo, the goalkeeper spot has always been up for debate and rotations at that position are not rare. Not this season.

Joe Willis has absolutely taken command of the spot both in league action and earlier in the team's Concacaf Champions League run. There is no question between his level of play and his backups.

The Dynamo would've dropped all three points at home without Willis on Wednesday. For that reason, he is the man of the match and an unspoken hero on the team sheet.

Dynamo player of the game: Joe Willis

Next up:

Saturday, April 18 vs D.C. United (7:30 p.m. CT, KUBE57) [ESPN+ for U.S. non-Houston markets]

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Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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