Unbeaten home streak snapped

5 kicks from Houston Dynamo's 1-3 loss to LAFC

5 kicks from Houston Dynamo's 1-3 loss to LAFC
Alberth Elis was frustrated by defenders in the Houston Dynamo's 1-3 loss to LAFC. Credit: Wilf Thorne/Houston Dynamo

The Houston Dynamo lost their first MLS home match of the year by way of a 1-3 result to league leaders Los Angeles Football Club. The Dynamo ended the weekend in 8th place, just outside of the seven playoff spots, with 15 matches left to play.

Here are five observations:

1) Golden opportunity squashed

There wasn't a better time to defeat the league's most dominant team. The record-setting LAFC, who entered this match with a league-high 50 goals in favor and a league-low 16 goals against, were on less than 48 hours rest since their U.S. Open Cup elimination and left MLS top-goalscorer and top-assist man Carlos Vela on the bench.

The trio of Alberth Elis, Mauro Manotas and Romell Quioto - the Dynamo's best attacking combination - generated plenty of opportunities in the first half, enough to have helped decide the result in their favor. The problems were effectiveness with the shots they had, seven of the Dynamo's 13 total shots were off target, and generating fewer opportunities in the second half.

Not putting the game away allowed LAFC to get back into the match with goals in first half stoppage time and four minutes after the start of the second half. Once they obtained the lead, LAFC used ball control to tire the Dynamo in their house and, eventually, ice the game with a third goal in the 88th minute.

2) Quioto gets second goal in as many games

Forward Romell Quioto broke his scoring drought with a penalty in the previous match at FC Cincinnati. He followed it up by opening the scoring three minutes into this match.

With renewed confidence, Quioto was more aggressive inside the box and showed his best form this season. The Honduran, however, has been unable to find a long consistent run of good form throughout his time in Houston - even weeks before his 28th birthday.

A better Quioto can allow the Dynamo to offset some of the extra defending on Alberth Elis and open the attack through the other side of the field. Until that happens, it's the Alberth Elis show that will make, or break, Houston's season.

3) Elis shut down by MLS-best defense

If you want a how to on how to defend Alberth Elis, the Dynamo's MVP candidate this season, go and watch the replay of this match. The 23-year-old winger hit the woodwork in the first minute of play but was otherwise neutralized by LAFC's stingy defense.

The defensive plays of the game came in the 26th minute with Mohamed El-Munir committed to denying Elis until the last possible instance. Goalkeeper Tyler Miller denied an Elis chip in the 28th minute and blocked a rebound opportunity in the 40th minute.

Elis had a great heading opportunity in the 82nd but did not connect with enough power, ending in a routine save from Miller. Aside from those opportunities, defenders cut off all other attempts to find the Honduran and a frustrated Elis usually doesn't end in good results for the Dynamo.

4) Cooler heads prevail

By all accounts, the Dynamo should have won this match. The difference came with the calm, cool composure in game management and that's were former U.S. Men's National Team Manager Bob Bradley bested Dynamo Manager Wilmer Cabrera.

While Cabrera and his staff complained to referees on multiple calls, a common occurrence on Dynamo matchdays at BBVA Stadium, Bradley never let his team feel pressured - even after going down 1-0 early.

LAFC patiently held on and worked their way into the scoreboard while the Dynamo lost a game where an early lead should have led to a win. There's enough matches, and postgame press conferences, over the course of the past year to see this as a trend.

5) Difference in standards

LAFC has risen to become one of the model franchises in MLS just two years into existence. That standard is something that was reflected on the field with an alternate lineup that played true to their style and never let up - their goals came at opportune times of the match like first half stoppage time.

The Dynamo, on the other hand, lack some of the professional qualities that LAFC showed - depth, talented players and a strong mentality. With a lack of accountability throughout the club, it's tough to see that changing in the coming weeks despite the availability of the summer transfer window (Houston has had one incoming signing in 2018 and two in 2017).

With only the addition of Chilean defender Jose Bizama confirmed so far, it's difficult to see how the Dynamo will combat a run of six losses in their last eight games. With nine of the remaining 15 matches on the road, it's tough to see the Dynamo making the playoffs.

Dynamo player of the game: Matias Vera

Defensive midfielder Matias Vera delivered another solid game in midfield and was one of the players that stood out despite the result.

Next up:

Wednesday, July 17 at Atlanta United FC (6:00 p.m. CT, KUBE57/TeleXitos 47.2)

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The Astros rotation looks like a strength moving forward. Composite Getty Image.

The Houston Astros are coming off a much-needed series win over the White Sox, but have a quick turnaround as they host the Orioles on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

The 'Stros dropped the first game of the series with Framber Valdez on the mound, but were able to rebound with Hunter Brown and Spencer Arrighetti starting the final two games.

Brown was brilliant once again, and Arrighetti bounced back after a disastrous start against the Tigers over the weekend. Despite all the injures to the Astros staff this season, their young pitchers are stepping up when they need them the most.

Brown has six consecutive quality starts and is beginning to show signs that he can be the top of the rotation pitcher the club always hoped he could develop into.

Arrighetti has stepped in and shown that he belongs in the big leagues, and has provided innings Houston desperately requires with so many pitchers on the injured list.

Speaking of which, with Justin Verlander on the IL, Double A prospect Jake Bloss will make the start for Houston on Friday night. Bloss has quickly progressed through the farm system, having been drafted just a year ago.

We'll see how he performs in his MLB debut, but the club seems to have a lot of quality pitching options moving forward, especially with Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers scheduled to return in late July and early August respectively.

And as we look at the Astros rotation moving forward, perhaps they will go back to a six-man rotation during certain stretches in the second half of the season.

Which could prove to be vital to the team's success. As good as Ronel Blanco has been, he's never pitched as many innings as he'll be asked to pitch this year. Same goes for Arrighetti. And let's face it, sending Verlander out to pitch on four days rest consistently at 41 years old doesn't sound like a wise decision. He's already been on the IL twice this year.

While some see Garcia and McCullers as wild cards to help the team this season, Astros GM Dana Brown doesn't see it that way. He told the Astros flagship station this week that he's counting on those guys to make big contributions when they return. And he's counting on their postseason experience should they get there.

Keep in mind, Garcia has a 3.61 career ERA and has been durable outside the Tommy John surgery. And McCullers has always been good, it's just the health that causes concern.

Garcia is also an example of how a player can skip Double A and Triple A and have success right away in the big leagues. Hopefully, Bloss can follow in his footsteps, since he's bypassing Triple A to make his first start.

So what's the short and long-term outlook for the Astros rotation? And should we expect Verlander to return in 2025?

Be sure to watch the video above as we address those questions and much more!

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