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
Porque mañana estarán hablando del partido. Aquí te dejamos el resumen para que no te quedes fuera de lugar.… https://t.co/YkaexmDAtp— Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League (@Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League) 1551850410.0
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
No reason this type of environment can't be replicated at @HoustonDynamo games. #SCCL2019 #HOUvTIG https://t.co/Z6Qe9UTlOY— Victor Araiza (@Victor Araiza) 1551994820.0
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.
"Like a loyal dog" @BatallonEb always there for @HoustonDynamo https://t.co/Q0zLapyLSh— Victor Araiza (@Victor Araiza) 1551995219.0
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
"El Volcán" awaits the @HoustonDynamo next week. #SCCL2019 #TIGvHOU https://t.co/R6bozQbekx— Victor Araiza (@Victor Araiza) 1551994934.0
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
.@JoeWillis23 putting his best foot forward 👣 #HOUvTIG #SCCL2019 https://t.co/aGDNKi30TO— Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League (@Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League) 1551847240.0
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."
Saturday, March 9th vs. Montreal Impact (4 p.m. CT, KUBE57)