Unbeaten home streak snapped

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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Altuve's homer starting the scoring for Houston on Friday night. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
After a solid showing to take the three of the four-game series in Arlington against the Rangers to start the week, the Astros returned home for three against the Diamondbacks in a weekend series. They would have a slow start to the opener but would ultimately come away victorious.

Final Score (10 innings): Astros 4, Diamondbacks 3

Astros' Record: 87-60, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (3-4)

Losing Pitcher: Tyler Clippard (1-1)

Bielak makes the impromptu start

With Luis Garcia having to move his start ahead by a day on Thursday instead of Friday with Framber Valdez's finger cut, Brandon Bielak made a start for Houston in the opener against Arizona. He didn't go as deep as he probably would have wanted and certainly ventured out of his comfort zone with traffic on the bases.

He loaded the bases in the top of the first, allowing a single and two walks, but was able to strand all three to keep it a scoreless game. He rebounded with a 1-2-3 second, but he dealt with a threat again in the third as back-to-back singles pressured him to start the inning. He would get back-to-back strikeouts, but that's as far as he would go as Houston moved on to Blake Taylor. Taylor got the final out of the third on one pitch, then erased a two-out double in the top of the fourth.

Altuve breaks up the no-no with a go-ahead homer

Brooks Raley took over in the top of the fifth, but in his three batters, he faced allowed a single while getting two outs before Cristian Javier took over to end the frame. Javier allowed the first run of the game in the top of the sixth, a leadoff solo homer to Kole Calhoun to put the Diamondbacks in front 1-0 before he finished the inning.

Madison Bumgarner didn't allow a single hit to the Astros through the first five and two-thirds innings. He allowed a one-out walk in the bottom of the sixth, which proved costly as Jose Altuve would get the first knock of the game for Houston, a two-run go-ahead homer. Phil Maton was the next reliever for the Astros in the top of the seventh, maintaining the new one-run lead by erasing a leadoff single.

Astros get the win in extras

The Diamondbacks tied it up in the top of the eighth against Kendall Graveman, getting a leadoff single followed by a walk, then later an RBI single to knot things up 2-2. Houston stranded a runner in the bottom of the eighth, then brought in Ryan Pressly, who tossed a 1-2-3 top of the ninth to keep the game tied.

Despite getting the winning run in scoring position with a leadoff ground-rule double by Jason Castro to start the bottom of the ninth, they would strand it as the game went to extras. Arizona scored their free runner in the top of the tenth, getting a sac fly to move it to third then going in front on an RBI single.

The Astros matched that and more in the bottom of the inning, moving their runner to third on a lineout to start the frame, followed by an intentional walk to Yordan Alvarez. Jake Meyers tied the game with an RBI single, then after another walk to load the bases, Chas McCormick was hit by a pitch to bring in the winning run, moving the Astros closer to clinching their playoff berth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will have a start time of 6:10 PM Central on Saturday. Tyler Gilbert (2-2, 3.15 ERA) is expected to make a start for Arizona, while Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.12 ERA) will be on the mound for Houston.

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