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.

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Houston drops the game to Arizona

D-backs outslug Greinke and Astros to take series opener

Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

With the series win over the Rangers by taking two of three games in the middle of the week, the Astros welcomed the Diamondbacks to Minute Maid Park for a three-game weekend series, Houston's final three regular-season home games. Here is how the opener unfolded:

Final Score: Diamondbacks 6, Astros 3.

Record: 25-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Zac Gallen (2-2, 3.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luis Garcia (0-1, 2.53 ERA).

Houston scores first, but Arizona grabs a lead against Greinke

Houston would get on the board first on Friday night, with George Springer reaching base in the bottom of the first on an error, moving to second on a walk, then to third on a single, as the Astros loaded the bases with no out to threaten a big inning. Instead, they would come away with just one run, with Springer taking home on a wild pitch, grabbing the 1-0 lead, but leaving runs on the table.

They doubled their lead in the bottom of the third, getting a two-out RBI-double by Kyle Tucker to make it a 2-0 Houston lead. The D-backs responded in the top of the fourth, getting back-to-back singles to lead off the inning before a three-run homer by Kole Calhoun off of Zack Greinke would put Arizona in front, 3-2. Greinke would finish one more inning before Houston would move to their bullpen, striking out the side to bring his total to nine on the night, making the bad fourth inning the one blemish on his night. His final line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 1 HR, 89 P.

Astros tie it, but D-backs take the opener

George Springer would get Greinke off the hook in the bottom of the fifth, leading off the half-inning with a solo bomb to tie the game at 3-3. Luis Garcia was first out of Houston's bullpen and retired Arizona in order for a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the sixth. He returned for the top of the seventh but would allow a leadoff single, RBI-triple, and wild pitch to bring in two runs. He would face two more batters, allowing a double and getting a strikeout, before Dusty Baker would come out to get him, now down 5-3.

Blake Taylor would make his return from the IL after Garcia, getting back-to-back outs to finish the inning. He continued on in the 5-3 game in the top of the eighth, but allowed a one-out solo homer to Calhoun, his second of the night and fourth RBI. That made it a 6-3 D-backs lead, which would go final as Houston would go scoreless after Springer's home run back in the fifth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will start Saturday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup will be Luke Weaver (1-7, 6.70 ERA) for Arizona and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.22 ERA) for Houston.

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