First Dynamo win since July

5 Kicks: Manotas, Ramirez lead Houston Dynamo to 2-0 win over Minnesota

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)

Courtesy of Houston Dynamo

The Houston Dynamo fell back to second-to-last place in the Western Conference after a 2-1 loss against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday night at BC Place. Mauro Manotas struck for the second consecutive match but it would not be enough as fellow Colombian Fredy Montero notched a 90th minute winner for the Caps.

Here are five observations from the match:

1) A winnable game

Despite Whitecaps FC coming into this match two weeks removed from their last MLS match, the Dynamo were looking at a possibility of picking up their first three points ever in Vancouver. The Canadians simply haven't looked great and that's a big reason why they are still the last place team in the West.

Houston had plenty of opportunities early on with Tommy McNamara missing a golden chance in just the fourth minute of play. The team ended up out-shooting the Whitecaps 18-6 throughout the entire match but they lacked the quality to punish in the final third.

For a team that has been poor on the road (Dynamo have a combined 5 away wins since 2017), this was a great opportunity to pick up a road win.

2) Hard done by a handball

The definition of a handball changed in an update to the Laws of the Game earlier this year. As a result, referees have interpreted the rule to the letter of the law because the evaluation of a "deliberate" handball has been removed.

In this case, the referee awards the penalty even after going to the video review booth. The Dynamo were on the other side of a VAR decision on Wednesday when a Minnesota goal was annulled after video review.

Ultimately, the Dynamo could've avoided the entire controversy by putting their chances away and putting this match out of reach.

3) Manotas scores again

There's not much more that can be said about Dynamo leading scorer Mauro Manotas. Once again, he was well positioned to jump on an opportunistic chance to score. The improvement to his game can only come as he evolves into a scorer that can create his own chances more consistently. Other than that, he's been one of the Dynamo's top players for the past few years.

4) Late goal defeat

Fredy Montero, one of the better scorers in the history of the league, was on a goal drought since June. He ended that drought with a 90th minute winner, taking advantage of a Jose Bizama who put out his worst performance in a Dynamo jersey.

Late goal defeats are probably up there with anything else you'd describe Dynamo play in this decade. Add another to the list.

5) Arnaud's progression continues to be slow

It was always going to be a though ask for Davy Arnaud to provide a complete 180-degree change and make a charge for the playoffs. In his five games in charge, Arnaud has reinvigorated the locker room with a bit of confidence. He has also taken more of a safety net approach and not rushing to make drastic changes in his lineups and during matches.

Dynamo player of the game: Maynor Figueroa

Figueroa's strike from created the clearest opportunity for the Dynamo. It is that type of initiative that get teams back into this type of match. The Honduran national team captain has injected an impact of leadership and is fearless when he is on the field. Signed in the offseason for an annual salary of $70,250.00, Figueroa has been every bit worth every penny and, undeniably, a steal.

Next match:

Saturday, September 21 vs. Orlando City SC (9:00 p.m. CT, KUBE57)

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