Alberth Elis and the Houston Dynamo could not overturn a 0-2 deficit against Tigres UANL. Photo by Diego Dlouhy/SportsMap Houston
The Houston Dynamo were eliminated from the Concacaf Champions League after a 0-1 loss (0-3 agg.) against Tigres UANL on Tuesday night. Mexican National Team defender Carlos Salcedo, a former player for MLS club Real Salt Lake, scored the only goal of the match in the 68th minute.
Here are five observations from the loss in Mexico:
1) Had a chance, never took advantage
Por si no lo viste, aquí te dejamos lo mejor del partido: @TigresOficial 1-0 @HoustonDynamo #SCCL2019 #TIGvHOU https://t.co/XmO9FYLyj3— Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League (@Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League) 1552454162.0
The Dynamo fared off better on the road than they did a week ago when they lost the first leg at home by a two-nil scoreline. Obviously, the advantage on the scoreboard kept Tigres from being more aggressive but Houston never pounced. Out of the ten shots generated, only one was on target.
Tommy McNamara missed two opportunities in the first half, Mauro Manotas missed a great opportunity in the 50th minute and Alberth Elis could only get about one decent shot off. Getting a goal would have made a very talented, albeit underachieving, Tigres team uneasy with the pressure of getting shocked in front of the home fans.
Unfortunately for the traveling fans, the Dynamo never capitalized on that opportunity. The team was unable to make due of the opportunities they did have (knowing beforehand those would be limited anyway) and lacked that "nothing to lose" gambler's attitude. At least they didn't get blown out, I suppose.
2) Injuries play a part again
Team Captain DaMarcus Beasley had to be subbed off in the 20th minute because of an injury. Fellow defender Maynor Figuroa also had to be substituted due to injury late in the second half. Playmaker Tomas Martinez was left on the bench due to taking licks in the team's MLS opener and the team's most valuable player (arguably) Juan David Cabezas didn't even travel because he has yet to recover from an injury in the club's Champions League opener.
Would a healthy squad fully made a difference against one of the top teams in the region? Maybe it wouldn't. What can be said is that this is a nagging issue that will keep haunting the squad all season if nothing is done about it. The team has essentially expressed that the roster will remain untouched until the summer and doesn't count on an Academy that pumps out MLS-ready players. It may just be easier to start selling replica crutches in the Dynamo team store.
3) CCL run could help MLS season
The Dynamo were never going to win the Concacaf Champions League. In fact, they were the least likely of the MLS sides to come away with the trophy. What this run did afford them was an earlier start to the season and a great test against one of the region's best teams.
A big benefit that has already been seen is a good start to the season. Four points out of six are a good with another three potentially waiting on Saturday against a Vancouver Whitecaps FC club that has won in Houston only once. What the Dynamo can take away from this experience is the confidence that they fared well against a side who play at a level well beyond most MLS teams. If they can translate the workload they've put in these last couple of weeks, there's no reason why they should't just make the playoffs but finish top four in their conference.
4) Figueroa, Lundqvist stand out
Maynor Figueroa left the Estadio Universitario limping and his status going forward is uncertain. Putting that aside, he may be the Dynamo's most important offseason acquisition - at least up to this point. He has appeared in every match and has brought security, leadership and an edge to a backline that desperately needed all the help in the world. Whether he stays on the field or hits the shelf for awhile, Figueroa may have already fulfilled the expectations the team had for him. Still, the 35-year-old Honduran National Team Captain has plenty left in the tank - as he's shown in the first games of the season.
Another player that could make his mark on the Dynamo in 2019 is left back Adam Lundqvist. Coming on for Beasley in the first half, the Swedish player has waited in the wings for enough time. He's definitely not the finished product but there is very little, if any, dropoff from Beasley and it may just be time to get the player more minutes.
5) Other takeaways from the experience
It would be a mistake to write about the trip to Mexico without acknowledging the passion of the local fans. How can the Dynamo inspire that type of a following and develop similar traditions? Simply by taking the initiative.
Welcome home 🐯 @TigresOficial! https://t.co/Pc8VdWNTjA— Soccer Matters with Glenn Davis (@Soccer Matters with Glenn Davis) 1552440148.0
Several of the gameday traditions that Tigres has can be emulated by the club. Asking fans to turn on the flashlight setting on their cellphones during games, getting the rest of the stadium more involved in chants and investing money into the team are just a few ways to creating that type of environment. Easier said than done, yes, but not impossible as other MLS teams have shown.
Dynamo player of the game: Maynor Figueroa
The offseason newcomer stood out the most with some good clearances to keep the Dynamo in the game.
Saturday, March 16th vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC (2 p.m. CT, KUBE57)
Correction: An earlier version of this article erroneously stated that Vancouver Whitecaps FC had never won in Houston. That has since been corrected to reflect Vancouver's 2-1 win on March 10, 2018 at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Ronald Acuña Jr. and Corbin Carroll just got a little more dangerous. Same for Bobby Witt Jr., Elly De La Cruz and the rest of baseball's fastest players.
Major League Baseball wants umpires to crack down on obstruction, and the commissioner's office outlined plans during a call with managers this week. MLB staff also will meet managers in person during spring training to go over enforcement.
The increased emphasis is only on the bases and not at home plate. The focus is on infielders who drop a knee or leg down in front of a bag while receiving a throw, acting as a deterrence for aggressive baserunning and creating an increased risk of injuries.
“I think with everything, they’re trying to make the game a little safer to avoid some unnecessary injuries," Phillies shortstop Trea Turner said Friday at the team's facility in Florida. “The intentions are always good. It comes down to how it affects the players and the games. I’m sure there will be plays where one team doesn’t like it or one team does.”
With more position players arriving at spring training every day, the topic likely will come up more and more as teams ramp up for the season.
“We'll touch on that. We'll show them some video of what’s good and what’s not,” Texas Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “You know, it’s going to be a little adjustment.”
Making obstruction a point of emphasis fits in with an ongoing effort by MLB to create more action. Obstruction calls are not reviewable, which could lead to some disgruntled players and managers as enforcement is stepped up, but it also means it won't create long replay deliberations.
A package of rule changes last season — including pitch clocks, bigger bases and limits on defensive shifts and pickoff attempts — had a dramatic effect. There were 3,503 stolen bases in the regular season, up from 2,486 in 2022 and the most since 1987.
MLB changed a different baserunning rule this offseason, widening the runner’s lane approaching first base to include a portion of fair territory. MLB also shortened the pitch clock with runners on base by two seconds to 18 and further reducing mound visits in an effort to speed games.
“Last year, you know, a lot of our preparation was around like, especially just the unknown of the clock and making sure like we’re really buttoned up on that," New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "These guys are so used to it in so many ways that sometimes I even forget.”
Increased enforcement could lead to more action on the basepaths. But a significant element of MLB's motivation is injury prevention.
Top players have hurt hands or wrists on headfirst slides into bases blocked by a fielder. White Sox slugger Luis Robert Jr. sprained his left wrist when he slid into Jonathan Schoop's lower left leg on a steal attempt during an August 2022 game against Detroit.
“It’s been happening for a while. It’s been getting out of control," Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “I know some of the players complained about it the last two years.”
While acknowledging his reputation as a significant offender, Phillies second baseman Bryson Stott didn't sound too worried about his play.
“We like to fight for outs at second base,” he said. "It’s never on purpose, blocking the base. For me, or someone covering second to the shortstop side, it’s a natural move for your knee to go down to reach the ball. It’s never intentional. I guess we’ll figure out how to maneuver around that.”