DYNAMO CONTINUE GOOD START

5 quick kicks from Dynamo vs. Vancouver Whitecaps

Alberth Elis (left center) played a part in all three Dynamo goals against Whitecaps FC. Photo by Diego Dlouhy/SportsMap Houston.

The Houston Dynamo picked up their second win of the season with a 3-2 result over Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday afternoon. Homegrown midfielder Memo Rodriguez scored his first MLS double, building on his MLS Goal of the Week performance last week, to help the team improve to a 2-0-1 record.

Here are five observations from the win:

1) Got the three points

Houston Dynamo vs. Vancouver Whitecaps | HIGHLIGHTS - March 16, 2019 www.youtube.com

This was a back-and-forth match that could've gone to either side. While Vancouver didn't generate half of the Dynamo's opportunities, they certainly did enough to scare Houston with the goals they scored in each half.

Vancouver winger Lass Bangoura entered at the beginning of the second half to reignite the offense for the Canadians, tying the game at 2-2 in the 54th minute. Alberth Elis, who was vital in the Dynamo's first goal, assisted Rodriguez on the game-winning goal in a play that relied heavily on his speed to outrun Whitecaps midfielder Victor Giro. Vancouver would keep pressing to tie the game but the Dynamo outlasted them to get the win.

To get seven points (out of nine possible) to start the season is great during any year but credit to the Dynamo for doing so with the added schedule of the Concacaf Champions League, an obligation that has seen them play a total of seven games in the last month. It's the best start so far from an MLS CCL participant this season and, while they've yet to face any of the league's heavy-hitters, it's a noteworthy feat.

2) Memo and Lundkvist state their case for more minutes

Memo Rodriguez was ticked off on his way to the team bus after Tuesday's 1-0 loss at Tigres UANL where he didn't feature despite scoring the MLS Goal of the Week last Saturday vs. Montreal. The 23-year-old only used it as fuel and showed up with two goals this week, stretching his case for more minutes after playing only 1,050 in his previous two seasons combined.

Adam Lundkvist, the club's third-highest earning player in 2018, put forth a good performance in that match against Tigres after subbing in the 20th minute due to a DaMarcus Beasley injury. He fared well, making his case to challenge the four-time FIFA World Cup veteran for the starting job. With Beasley out due to a knee injury, Lundkvist got the start and was heavily involved in the offense - posting a team-high seven crosses.

3) Alberth Elis back on the prowl

One of the stars of the team, Alberth Elis, had his best performance of 2019 by far. It was a good sight for Dynamo fans and one that was due after the Honduran forward's quiet start to the season. Elis is expected to be one of the catalysts of the Dynamo offense but had only generated six shots through the team's six matches in Concacaf Champions League and MLS combined. On Saturday, Elis looked more like the version of himself that started 2017 with eight goals and five assists in the first 12 games - catapulting him to a 2017 MLS All-Star appearance.

"La Panterita" (the little panther) along with teammates Romell Quioto and Maynor Figueroa will join Honduras for an international friendly against Ecuador on March 26 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

4) Midfield holds up

One of the big questions coming into 2019 was how the team would fare if midfielder Juan David Cabezas was sidelined again. JDC was a big part of the Dynamo's success in 2017 and his absence last season was felt in the standings. After just one game this season, Cabezas is injured again and his return is unknown. Argentine Matias Vera, one of the team's key offseason acquisitions, has fared well and has obviously given the team the important depth it was lacking at that position. What remains to be seen is how they are tested against better opposition or more challenging situations - like going on the road, which they'll do for their next match. For now, it's so far so good for the Houston Dynamo.

5) The attendance issue

Saturday's announced attendance for Houston vs. Vancouver was 13,549 - bringing the season average for MLS matches up to 14,641 per match. In an interview after the match, Houston Dynamo President John Walker said the following:

"We know we have a ways to go to actually do that but it's been sort of a steady decline over the last several years...We're trying to reach out to some of our past fans in ways that we haven't reached out to them before. It's really about building relationships with the fanbase and, third, the magic bullet there is for the team to play well - and they're playing well so that on its own should build some momentum. It'll be work in progress. It'll take us a couple of years to build the base back up but we feel good about the things that we have in place."

Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera added that the team is doing their part by providing results on the field but that is as much as the coaches and players can do.

Dynamo player of the game: Alberth Elis

"La Panterita" was all over the field on Saturday, taking part in all three Dynamo goals. He assisted the two Memo goals and drew the foul for the penalty and converted it. The question, long-term, will be consistency as the Honduran had a great start to 2018 but flared out as the season went on.

Next up:

Saturday, March 30th at Colorado Rapids (8:00 p.m. CT, KUBE57)

The Dynamo have no game this week thanks to the FIFA break that sees leagues worldwide take a pause for international fixtures. BBVA Compass Stadium will see action during this window with the U.S. Men's National Team hosting Chile on March 26.

The U.S. Women's National Team look to defend their FIFA Women's World Cup title and become back-to-back champs.

The Summer of Soccer is underway with the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, UEFA Nations League and international friendlies all part of the schedule this past weekend. The action is about to kick into another gear with the start of the Concacaf Gold Cup and South America's Copa America this week. Here is the week in soccer:

FIFA Women's World Cup

The premier women's international soccer competition kicked off in France with a 4-0 win by the hosts last Friday to open the competition. France is one of the favorites, and pressured to win, due to their role as the home team. The French women are also looking to match their male counterparts that became World Cup champions last summer at Russia 2018.

Germany, another of the favorites, opened their campaign with a 1-0 win over China while 2011 Champions and 2015 Runners-up Japan were held to a scoreless draw against what could be a Cinderella team in Argentina. England and Scotland faced off for the first time at the World Cup, men or women's, with the Lionesses winning 2-1 while potential dark horse Canada picked up a 1-0 win over Cameroon.

The defending champion United States joins the fray on Tuesday (2:00 p.m. CT, FOX) in what will likely be a multiple goal clinic against Thailand. For all the basics on the Women's World Cup, check out this article.

UEFA Nations League

The first ever Nations League, an attempt to get rid of "meaningless" international friendlies, looks to have been a rousing success and it could not have finished in a better way in terms of garnering media attention. European football's golden boy Cristiano Ronaldo led Portugal, the current European champions, to a second European title in three years with a 1-0 win over the Netherlands.

Concacaf Gold Cup

The biannual tournament to determine the champion of North America, Central America and the Caribbean - the region governed by Concacaf - kicks off on Saturday. The United States enter as the defending champions but it is Mexico, the nation with the most titles in the competition, who enter as the favorites to win it all.

Mexico fared well with a 3-1 friendly win over Venezuela in Atlanta on Wednesday followed by a 3-2 win over Ecuador on Sunday up in Arlington, TX. The United States enter with doubts after a 0-1 loss to Jamaica in Washington D.C. and a 0-3 loss to Venezuela in Cincinnati.

CONMEBOL Copa America

South America also has a tournament kicking off this weekend in the revered Copa America. Hosts Brazil are always in the spotlight because of their star-studded squad and will be expected to win despite losing Neymar to injury this past week. Of course, as it has been for several editions now, the main storyline will be if Lionel Messi can finally lift a trophy with Argentina. With what many consider as the best in the world (and best all-time by others) in his prime, the time seems now or never for Messi to conquer the quadrennial tournament as well of the hearts of his country - and what a story it would be to do it on rival turf.

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