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]

Credit: Wilf Thorne/Houston Dynamo

The Houston Dynamo broke a seven-match winless streak with a 2-0 win against Minnesota United FC on Wednesday night at BBVA Stadium. The win is the first at home since July 3 against the New York Red Bulls and the first victory in league play since July 20 at Toronto. The result also marked the first win under Interim Head Coach Davy Arnaud.

Here are five observations from the September 11 result on "First Responders Night."

1) A win long worth the wait

It wasn't pretty, it wasn't easy but it was a much needed result to break free from a bad spell. More so than ending a seven -match winless streak, it was about the team turning around a stretch that saw them winless in 17 out of their last 20 dating back to May. Yes, the Dynamo began the season undefeated in 7 of their first 8 matches - the best start in franchise history. Cool. Anybody who was being honest in their analysis knew the team benefited from a home-heavy schedule to start the season and that the most challenging part was on its way.

Before the start of Wednesday's match, the club had a record of 2-12-1 (W-L-D) since returning from the Concacaf Gold Cup break. It was a similar summer dismantling to what happened in 2018, except that had makeup applied to it in the form of a U.S. Open Cup title.

After the team's shortcomings failed to be addressed, the team began to head towards its fifth playoff absence in six seasons. What the future holds is still to be seen but at least, for one night, Dynamo supporters were rewarded with the sweet taste of victory.

2) Making the switch to a two-forward formation

The 4-2-3-1 formation that featured two wingers and a lone forward had run it's course. It stopped working for the Dynamo a few games back. Truthfully, it was always a formation meant to favor the two speedy wingers Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto. The results were always going to be less favorable once players without the characteristics of Elis and Quioto, i.e. Memo Rodriguez, Tommy McNamara, etc., began to be inserted.

For whatever reasons, Davy Arnaud continued some of the habits of previous manager Wilmer Cabrera. That included playing in the 4-2-3-1. Arnaud had switched to a 4-4-2 during his debut as the interim, where the team came back from 0-2 down to a dramatic 2-2 home draw. He opted not to repeat the two-forward lineup in the two matches after.

Whether being forced by circumstances (the potential sale of Mauro Manotas and the international FIFA break may have played a part), Arnaud finally went to a lineup that placed his two best attackers on the field: Mauro Manotas and Christian Ramirez.

The resulting win may be a coincidence of that change but the Dynamo looked their best under Arnaud's tenure as head coach.

3) Alejandro Fuenmayor features in first MLS match since June

The 23-year-old defender was one of the better additions to the team during the 2017/18 offseason. The Venezuelan even started in 21 of 22 matches, the sixth most starts on the team. This season, he fell out of favor with former manager Wilmer Cabrera and thrown into the doghouse.

Fuenmayor had featured in 429 minutes and five MLS matches prior to the encounter with Minnesota. It was as if he was played out of necessity for lack of other options. In the Leagues Cup match in late July against Liga MX side Club America and on Wednesday night, Fuenmayor showed why he is one of the better players on the roster.

What happened in the past is done. What happens going forward is in the club's control and, given the proof over the last two seasons, Alejandro Fuenmayor has to be part of the team's plan for the future and the present.

4) Joe Willis matches career-high for wins in a season

Goalkeeper Joe Willis has been one of the more solid performers this season despite the blunders everyone remembers from his performances at Cincinnati and at Philadelphia. He's been a workhorse for the Dynamo. With the win against Minnesota, he matched a career-high nine wins in a singular season and could reach double digits before the year is over.

5) Arnaud turns the corner

Time will tell if Davy Arnaud's interim tag will be removed. As of now, he's the leading candidate for the permanent head coaching job. The biggest benefit that was always going to come from him was the union of the locker room. Now with his first win in hand, Arnaud has five matches to prove why he deserves the gig.

Dynamo player of the game: Mauro Manotas

A game-winning goal and an assist for Manotas makes him the Man of the Match. In every period of turmoil throughout his time in Houston, Manotas has been one of the few voices that gives it to you straight and doesn't spit cliches. That's the same personality he goes on the field with and that's why he's one of the league's better goalscorers.

Next match:

Saturday, September 14 at Vancouver Whitecaps FC (9:00 p.m. CT, KUBE57/TeleXitos 47.2)

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