HOUSTON 4, COLORADO 1

5 quick kicks from Dynamo at Colorado Rapids

Houston Dynamo supporters made the trip to Colorado to witness their team win their first away match of the season. (Photo by Jesus Zamorano/Houston Dynamo)

The Houston Dynamo picked up a 4-1 victory in their first away game of the season on Saturday night. The win improves the team's record to 3-0-1, keeping their undefeated start in league play intact, to provide the best start in franchise history.

Here are five observations from the win:

1) Winning on the road

HIGHLIGHTS: Colorado Rapids vs. Houston Dynamo | March 30, 2019 www.youtube.com

Anyone who has followed the team through the last few years knows well about the Dynamo's struggle to pick up points on the road. It's an abysmal record and one that has definitely played a part in the team's inability to make the playoffs in four of the last five seasons. To support that point further, the team only lost once at home in the only year of that stretch that they did make the playoffs.

While the Dynamo are certainly capable of providing another strong year at home, they will not want to depend on those results alone to define their season. Wins while playing away, especially to bad teams like Colorado, are opportunities that need to be maximized. On this occasion, they did and it only helps the team build confidence moving forward.

2) Undefeated start to the season

Another thing that can be taken away from the 2017 season, the only one where the Dynamo made the playoffs in recent years, is the strong start the team had that year. The Dynamo have fallen victim to not having a bigger sense of urgency early in other recent years and suffer for it later in the season. Last year, a strong start would have helped alleviate the summer workload that saw the team cave into a winless stretch of 10 straight games.

Now, the Dynamo have certainly benefited from an easy schedule to start 2019 but, to their credit, they've taken care of their business. Who they play is not in their control but eventually the team will have to face tougher competition. The schedule will get more complicated for them starting in May and going into the summer, when they will likely lose a handful of players to international competition. That is why this start is so important and why it may end up being key at the end of the year.

3) Elis the driving force behind the Dynamo

Alberth Elis has now contributed to the last seven of the team's 10 goals this season, including all four in Colorado on Saturday. His speed allowed him to get past defenders and cross the ball into the box, which has essentially become his trademark.

Run, pass, score, repeat was the formula on Saturday night and it worked so much that it ended up with the Rapids scoring on themselves on two occasions. When Elis plays well, the team thrives. Conversely, as it happened in the later part of last season, the team struggles when the Honduran doesn't provide that spark. The Dynamo have to ride this wave of good form, and a week of rest will do the team good to refresh their batteries before their next match in two weeks.

4) Homegrown Rodriguez continues hot streak

Memo Rodriguez, the Dynamo Academy product, picked up his fourth goal in as many matches in the 4th minute of the match. It's already his best season scoring and the 23-year-old shows no signs of stopping.

This run of form certainly gives him more leverage when the manager has to decide who to place in his starting XI. He may not have the speed that some of his peers have but he's certainly shown the skill and ability - and maybe more importantly, the drive to succeed. He's certainly a player to follow, especially to see how he himself fares against tougher competition as the season goes on.

5) Supporters make the trip to Colorado

What can never be understated is the support of the diehards like Texian Army and El Batallon. About a good dozen or two of Dynamo supporters made the trip to the Mile High City, some of them making the 16-hour drive from Houston.

I write a lot on here about the lagging attendance at home games but the never ending loyalty of the supporters groups is admirable. This season, they've followed the team to Guatemala, down to Mexico and now to the team's first away MLS match.

Dynamo player of the game: Alberth Elis

Next up:

Saturday, April 13th vs. San Jose Earthquakes (2:00 p.m. CT, KUBE57)

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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