DYNAMO OPEN MLS SEASON WITH DRAW

Five quick kicks from Dynamo vs. Real Salt Lake

Mauro Manotas scored the Dynamo's lone goal in the 1-1 draw versus RSL. Photo by Diego Dlouhy/SportsMap Houston.

The Houston Dynamo opened their 2019 Major League Soccer season with a 1-1 draw against Real Salt Lake. Mauro Manotas scored the game-tying goal in the 62nd minute to help the team to their first point of the year. The club now looks ahead to one of the most highly-anticipated matches in their history as Mexican side Tigres UANL comes to town on Tuesday night.

Here are five observations from Saturday night:

1) Alternate lineup gets the result

A big question leading up to this match was how the manager would handle the lineup knowing the test that awaits the team on Tuesday. Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera rested three of the four first choice defenders as well as defensive midfielder Darwin Ceren - giving longtime Dynamo Boniek Garcia his first minutes of the year. In the attack, he went with his best four of Martinez, Manotas, Quioto and Elis - the quartet responsible for 41 of the team's 58 league goals in 2018.

The game was a physical, chippy match full of mistakes that were expected from two teams coming out of preseason. Overall, Real Salt Lake were the better side in generating chances to score but the Dynamo were able to take a point (almost all three) thanks to solid goalkeeping from Joe Willis and the goal-scoring prowess of Mauro Manotas.

2) High-powered offense needs a jump start

Manotas' goal in the 62nd minute was the team's lone shot on target. On another occasion, that would be chalked up as a slow start to the season. Considering that they are about to face a top three Liga MX offense and one that averages almost two goals a game, that's not good enough.

The manager mentioned in his post match comments, "When one plays two tournaments, it is not easy to put the mind on both...but I give the benefit [of the doubt] to the players. They fought, they tried, they came from behind and even though we lacked that usual spark of the Houston Dynamo, we managed to improve throughout the game."

Maybe the players were unconsciously looking ahead to the next match, in the same manner that they may play cautious right before an international call up - as alluded to by the manager. Whichever the case, the Dynamo will likely need a two goal lead - at a minimum - if they want to advance past Tigres in the Concacaf Champions League. To do so, they'll need to play much better than they fared against RSL.

3) Goalkeeper Joe Willis in top form

Perhaps the biggest positive of the night, and of the three matches played this year, was the play of goalkeeper Joe Willis. He looks like he barely missed a beat in the offseason and continues to display the best form of his career in a Dynamo jersey. Against RSL, Willis came up with three pivotal saves that helped the Dynamo stay within closing distance on the scoreboard. Having him in goal should be a confidence booster for the team in the upcoming series with Tigres.

4) Dynamo may be battered and bruised

The big question is were the Dynamo are health-wise. Juan David Cabezas missed Saturday's league opener due to an injury he picked up in the first leg of the Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 while Tomas Martinez limped off the field when subbed out in the 52nd minute against Real Salt Lake. The status of both players is in doubt for Tuesday's match, meaning the Dynamo could be facing Tigres without two of their best players in midfield.

5) Attendance still an issue

BBVA Compass Stadium was well below its full capacity prior to kickoff.Victor Araiza/SportsMap Houston

Over four months removed from their last MLS match and just over two months since the 2019 home openers were announced, the Dynamo were not able to rally 22,000 people out of the nearly 6.9 million that live in the Houston metroplex. The announced attendance for Saturday's match was 16,827 - by far the lowest for a Dynamo home opener 8-year history of BBVA Compass Stadium.

The first game of the season used to be one of the surefire dates for a crowd of 20,000-plus. Now it seems like the only guaranteed sellouts will be against teams with high-profile stars, as even the derby game against FC Dallas - another date that used to be one of the most attended - only pulled 16,544 last August.

The positive? Tigres UANL are coming to town on Tuesday and, even if the stadium will be full of mostly yellow-and-blue jerseys, it should be a great night for the BBVA Compass Stadium box office. If you don't have tickets yet, you may want to hurry: houstondynamo.com/tickets.

Dynamo player of the game: Mauro Manotas

Joe Willis was named the man of the match by the broadcast team of Glenn Davis and Eddie Robinson but I'm going to venture in a different direction with my vote. Willis is certainly deserving of the honor but I would argue that without Manotas' "striker's goal," the Dynamo finish the night with a loss. Willis' saves certainly kept the Dynamo in the match but Manotas' knack of scoring gave the team a point to start the season.

Next up:

Tuesday, March 5th vs. Tigres UANL, Concacaf Champions League quarter-finals first leg (9:00 p.m. CT, YahooSports.com)

Dash 1, Reign FC 1

5 kicks from Dash vs. Reign FC

Dash forward Nichelle Prince (center) scored in the 10th minute against Reign FC. (Photo by Jose Castenanos)

The Houston Dash opened their sixth professional season in the National Women's Soccer League with a 1-1 home draw against Regin FC on Sunday. Canadian National Team forward Nichelle Prince scored the lone goal for the Dash while U.S. National Team Goalkeeper Jane Campbell saved a penalty attempt in stoppage time.

Here are five observations from the win:

HIGHLIGHTS: Houston Dash vs. Reign FC | April 14, 2019 www.youtube.com

1) Welcome to the Clarkson era

Head Coach James Clarkson made his debut as a manager in the women's game. He was named the third head coach in club history after being announced to the role last December. Sunday was the first real test for the team, being that it was their first competitive match and one against a professional team.

The Dash had some good chances, enough to win this match at least, and have only themselves to blame for the dropped points. True, Reign FC is a more seasoned team with a two-time NWSL Championship winning coach but they were beatable on the day. Given that players are still adjusting to a new coaching staff, Clarkson gets a pass here for the result. Going forward, however, these are the types of games that have to be won if the club wants to even entertain qualifying to their first NWSL playoffs.

2) Prince pounces on mistake

Canadian forward Nichelle Prince won the battle against Reign defender Theresa Nielsen, dispossessing her to score in the 10th minute. The 24-year-old from Ajax, Ontario, Canada was a nuisance for the defense for a large part of the game and provided a good outlet for the attack in transition. The ability to create her own opportunity turned into the team's only goal on the day. She will be a player to keep an eye on not only for the Dash but for Canada at this summer's FIFA Women's World Cup.

3) Campbell saves the day

Goalkeeper Jane Campbell had a fairly solid day in goal. Other than the deflected shot that put the Reign on the scoreboard in the 58th minute, there wasn't much that she couldn't handle. In the waning minutes of the match, however, she was careless with a back pass that ended in her conceding a stoppage time penalty (she apologized for the play after the match). In the end, she stayed a hero by blocking the penalty and securing the point for the home team.

4) Brooks plays in 100th NWSL match

Only 21 players had featured in 100 NWSL matches until Sunday. Amber Brooks became the 22nd player to reach that milestone, coincidentally her jersey number is no. 22. The club's Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 has become one of the key figures on the team since her arrival in 2016. Another coincidence was that she reached the accomplishment against Reign FC, the team she played for before coming to Houston. Brooks continues to add to her resume which also includes playing in Europe with FC Bayern Munich and in Australia, this past offseason, with Adelaide United.

5) Lowest turnout for a home opener

If you've read my "5 Kicks" after Houston Dynamo games, you've read plenty about the dwindling attendance at the matches for the men. Unfortunately, due to the Dash getting a fraction of the Dynamo's resources despite sharing the same ownership group, it's an even more uphill battle on the women's side. The match hardly had any marketing dollars behind it and the attendance figures reflect that.

2014 - 8,097 on April 12 vs. Portland Thorns (L 0-1)

2015 - 6,012 on April 10 vs. Washington Spirit (W 2-0)

2016 - 7,440 on April 16 vs. Chicago Red Stars (W 3-1)

2017 - 4,484 on April 15 vs. Chicago Red Stars (W 2-0)

2018 - 5,846 on March 25 vs. Chicago Red Stars (T 1-1)

2019 - 4,335 on April 14 vs. Reign FC (T 1-1)

The drop in the home opener comes a year after Dynamo/Dash Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer David Brady shared a three-year attendance plan with the Houston Business Journal - one that aims for the club to double their numbers by next season.

Dash player of the game: Nichelle Prince

The Dash don't come away with a point, or have a chance at three, if not for Prince's efforts that put the team on the scoreboard.

Next up:

Saturday, April 20th at Sky Blue FC (5:00 p.m. CT, YahooSports.com)

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