DYNAMO FALL TO LIGA MX LEADERS

5 quick kicks from Dynamo vs. Tigres UANL

Tigres UANL fans, from Houston and abroad, helped fill BBVA Compass Stadium on Tuesday night. Photo by Victor Araiza/SportsMap Houston

The Houston Dynamo fell to Liga MX leaders Tigres UANL in the first leg of the 2019 Concacaf Champions League quarter-finals. Enner Valencia and Julián Quiñones scored in the 78th and 81st respectively to give the visitors a 2-0 lead heading into the return leg next week in Mexico.

Here are five observations from Tuesday's loss:

1) Dynamo are still a house of cards

The Dynamo were already up against it, with a healthy squad to get past a talent-full Tigres side. With key players like midfielders Tomas Martinez, Juan David Cabezas, Darwin Ceren and defender Aljaz Struna all sidelined for this match, it was a essentially a fool's errand to think of winning on Tuesday.

It's not rocket science to see that the Dynamo are limited when it comes to MLS title aspirations, nevertheless winning the Concacaf Champions League. That much is known but, just as it was the problem last season, this team is paper thin when it comes to handling the rigors of a professional soccer season.

The problems with depth aren't just exclusive to this year. It was the same issue last season when the team did little in the offseason to better the team and paid the price by missing the playoffs for the fourth time in five years. This year could be more of the same as three weeks into competitive action, the Dynamo have already suffered a few key injuries. On Saturday against Montreal, they'll have to deal with two more absences as midfielder Matias Vera and forward Ronaldo Peña must serve suspensions.

2) Talented Tigres a great test

About the match that was played, well, Tigres had their way with the Dynamo. The scoreboard will show that the Dynamo fought and hung in there, keeping it nil-nil, for 75 minutes. In all honesty, Tigres barely broke a sweat.

The Mexican side had control of the ball nearly all game. They were more physical in keeping it and were a force taking it back when the Dynamo had it. Their players weaved in and around Dynamo defenders with ease and were smarter in defending the counter, anticipating most every one of the Dynamo's attempts and keeping them locked down to zero shots on target.

It was a great test for the Dynamo, however.

Yes, Tigres twelve games into their season while the Dynamo are into their fourth. Yes, Tigres have a massive payroll compared to the Dynamo. The gap can be conditioned any which way but the barometer of measuring yourself against a team like them could be something that helps the Dynamo, hopefully, challenge themselves to new heights during the MLS season.

3) Tigres fans light up the stadium

It was no secret that Tigres fans would fill the stadium. In fact, they probably helped a few Dynamo salespeople meet their goals for the month. Here's the kicker though, the announced attendance for this match was 16,890 - just a tad few more than Saturday's announced attendance of 16,827 against Real Salt Lake.

The vibe inside the stadium was different, electric, but it's nothing that can't be replicated at Dynamo games. Soccer lives in Houston and if the Dynamo could just tap into these passionate fans that already live in the Bayou City, there's absolutely no reason why BBVA Compass Stadium can't rival gamedays like those we see in Portland or LAFC.

4) Dynamo fans not dead and buried

Merit also goes to the Houston diehards that made it out Tuesday. They're a rare breed these days. It's too long a story to get into why there's not more Dynamo fans at games but, given the lack of respect the organization has shown to its supporters in recent years, I don't blame anyone that didn't show up.

For the fans that were at BBVA Compass Stadium in Orange, I applaud you. They are the fans players dream of playing in front of - whether there's 20 of them or 20,000. The politics around the club don't compare to the love these fans have for the team, but I hope the day comes sooner than later when the club appreciates them for their devotion to their colors.

5) Still ninety minutes to play

It's only halftime in the series. The Dynamo still have to travel down to Monterrey for the return leg next week. Down 2-0 and facing one of Mexico's most menacing soccer environments, it's definitely a daunting task.

The team also has nothing to lose and next week presents a stage for players who aspire to leave the team for greener pastures (and believe me, there's plenty of those). Players like Alberth Elis and Mauro Manotas could be playing in their audition for a Liga MX team if they impress at the Estadio Universitario.

Dynamo player of the game: Joe Willis

The least of the Dynamo's worries is the goalkeeping position. Willis has been a reliable keeper and, as he did on Tuesday night, will give his team a chance by holding up his end of the bargain. He needs support, however. As any goalkeeper, he's not going to be able to stop shots if left helpless by his defense but, rest assured, the Dynamo won't be losing games this season because of "Big Joe."

Next up:

Saturday, March 9th vs. Montreal Impact (4 p.m. CT, KUBE57)

Credit: Wilf Thorne/Houston Dynamo

Houston Dynamo Senior Vice President/General Manager Matt Jordan addressed questions from fans during the first hour of Soccer Matters with Glenn Davis on Tuesday night. Among the topics of conversation were potential player signings, concerns with player development and club operations.

The following are excerpts from the Q&A with callers to the program:

Potential Transfers

On why the Dynamo has not gone after a big name player that can fill BBVA Stadium

We're very open and we have had discussion with "big name players" ... For us, it's about getting the right players and I truly believe, through my experiences, you also have stars that grow within the league. We've seen that with our team with Alberth Elis, with Mauro Manotas - from my time in Montreal, we saw that with Ignacio Piatti. These weren't "big name stars" but they became "big name stars" so we look at all of it. We look at making our own stars, we look at some players that have been on the biggest stages and maybe a bit older but, for us, it's analyzing what's the right fit.

On the suggestion of a player like Mexico National Team Captain Andres Guardado

A lot of fans will say, "bring a big name, a Messi or Ronaldo" and that's not always realistic in the world of soccer but those are the types of profiles we do continue to look at along with making our own stars as well, which I think we've done a good job of with the two players I mentioned, who are stars in the city of Houston now.

On the reports of Cruz Azul's interest in Dynamo forward Mauro Manotas

We're getting interest in a lot of our young talented players. The two players that everyone talks about is Mauro Manotas and Alberth Elis, there's also a handful of other players that we get inquiries of from abroad. A lot of the teams in the Mexican league follow our teams very closely and Cruz Azul did express interest in Mauro... [a potential transfer] has to make sense for the player, it has to make sense for the club

Player Development

On the investment in the Houston Dynamo Academy

With the support of our ownership group, over the last 18 months, have made significant investments in the academy. We hired a new academy director in Paul Holocher, we brought on what I believe are some of the brightest young coaches in the Unites States. We've really worked very hard to strengthen our partnerships and our strategic alliances here within the city of Houston, which I believe has really been a downfall of ours in the past.

On the possibility of having a locally-based USL team

We have. One thing I can tell you, we have our USL players, our academy players, our U23 players in and out with the first team all the time. With the Open Cup, we brought up several of our USL players. You'll see a couple of our USL players come up for our League's Cup game as well... of course, it's more ideal to have it next to our first team field but we're very proud of the partnership in the [Rio Grande] Valley.

Club Policies

On the Dynamo's scouting system for recruiting players for the first team...

We do have a scout in Europe that's paid by us, we have a scout in South America that's paid by us and I also have a full-time scout and analyst, here, that is in Houston working with us in our recruitment department.

What we do is we go through the annual scouting calendar, we prioritize what events we need to hit. Generally speaking, I only travel when we get to the point - myself or [Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera] or both of us together, a lot of time we'll travel together in the offseason. We only really travel when we get to [final stages of a transfer].

We use our regional contacts...What I really focus on is having one key contact in each country and, a lot of times, we go after the player, it's not that the player is presented to us by the agent. [Recent signing Jose Bizama] is a prime example, we went after Bizama and we approached the club through our process. Now, there's times where a player is presented to us as well, but more often then not we utilize those regional contacts in each country. There's a lot of times, with many of our players, we've identified them or we've gone after them when they're, maybe, not for sale and that's when the grinding starts to take place for the negotiation.

On the club hosting a town hall meeting with supporters

In this moment, I can't speak for ownership but I have no problem being in any setting and fielding questions about the team for the fans.

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The entire conversation is available on the July 16, 2019 episode of the podcast, which can be heard on iTunes, Google Podcasts and www.podcastarena.com/soccermatters/

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