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)

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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