HOUSTON ELIMINATED FROM CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
5 quick kicks from Dynamo at Tigres UANL
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
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.
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.