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)

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Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March. Photo via: NRG Park/Facebook

Football players, coaches and general managers have come and gone, but only one person has been running the business side of the Texans, well, even before they were the Texans. Jamey Rootes has been President of the Houston Texans since 1999, when an NFL team in Houston was still just a gleam in owner Bob McNair's eyes. That's before the team adopted the name "Texans" in 2000, before there was NRG Stadium, which opened as Reliant Stadium in 2000, and before they became serial champs of the AFC South, six titles between 2011-2019.

The precise date was Oct. 6, 1999 when NFL owners voted 29-0 to award the NFL's 32nd and newest franchise to Houston. Not only that, Houston was awarded the 2004 Super Bowl. Rootes, 34 years old with no NFL experience, had his work cut out for him. Before taking the job in Houston, Rootes was team president, general manager and CEO of selling peanuts and popcorn for the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer.

Major League Soccer, with all due respect, is not nearly a national obsession like the National Football League.

"I wasn't intimidated," Rootes said. "There's a quote that I love, 'Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.' I've always been a purpose-driven person. As for the step up to the NFL, I went from knowing nothing at the start of my time in Columbus to five years later thinking, OK, I've got this sports thing down. Actually, I had a very significant reduction in my responsibilities in Houston. When I was in Columbus, I ran the stadium, I ran the team's business, I was the general manager so I did the talent side of it, too. When I came to Houston, all I had to do was the business, so that was great."

Rootes has captured his remarkable journey from the soccer team at Clemson to grad school at Indiana University to the business world at IBM and Proctor & Gamble to the Clemson Crew, to ultimately being named President of the Houston Texans in his new book, The Winning Game Plan: A Proven Leadership Playbook for Continuous Business Success, available next week.

I've known Rootes from his day one with the Texans, but I still had to ask: everybody knows what the general manager does, and what the head coach does. What exactly does the President of an NFL team worth $3.3 billion do?

"I like to use the parallel of a pharmaceutical company to describe my job. There are two sides to that company. First you put scientists in one building and you leave them alone. They create products, which is what our football team is. The football side has a coach and general manager and all the people who prepare the team to play on Sunday. But getting that product to market is done by the business side, traditional business disciplines. Those are the things that fall to me. Basically, everything between the white lines is run by the football side. Everything outside of those lines, I do," Rootes said.

Between 1999 and 2002, when the Texans played their first game (let the record show the Texans defeated the Dallas Cowboy, 19-10), the team was essentially a massive start-up project. First orders of business for Rootes involved building a new stadium, developing relationships with suppliers, contractors and government officials, preparing for a Super Bowl and, most important, developing a relationship with fans.

Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March, but it's really an accumulation of lessons learned and behind-the-scenes stories about building the Texans from scratch into one of the most admired and valuable franchises in all of sports.

"I've always been a meticulous note-taker. I've kept every presentation I've ever done. I took all of my notes and concepts and put those down on paper," Rootes said. "To be a good leader, you need a wild imagination. You can show me a blank piece of paper, but I don't see it as blank. To me, it's a finished product that hasn't been created yet," Rootes said.

Rootes lays out his leadership strategy in seven chapters: Are You a Manager or a Leader, Get the Right People on Your Team, Build a Winning Culture, Create Raving Fans, a Winning Playbook for Adversity and Success, Your Leadership Playbook and Play to Win.

He learned lesson No. 1 the hard way. A friend once counseled Rootes, "your staff doesn't like the way you're all up in their business, you need to back off." Rootes took that advice to heart.

"It was an epiphany. I wasn't a leader. That's when I truly began thinking about leadership. I say this all the time, I don't do anything. All I do is create an environment where exceptional people can be their very best self. I know what's going on. I'm fully informed. I leave every game day exhausted. I get there early. I do the things I need to do. I kiss babies. I shake hands. I present checks. I entertain clients. I'm dialed in. It absolutely wears me out because I love this organization so much. I am so proud of what we've been able to do for this great city of Houston."

I asked Rootes, as someone who lives for Game Day and a packed NRG Stadium, are you devastated by 2020, the year of COVID-19 and small crowds limited by Centers for Disease Control guidelines?

"I don't look at it that way. I think there's a song by 10,000 Maniacs that said, these are the days that you'll remember. I told my staff, I know you're all going through hell right now, but later on in life, you'll talk about this year. Things that are important are memorable, for the positive and those things that leave a scar. You learn from adversity and you're a better person for enduring it. Victor Frankl said 'We can discover meaning in life in three different ways, by creating a work or doing a deed, experiencing something or encountering someone, and by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.' Suffering is part of life. He should know, he survived a Nazi concentration camp," Rootes said.

H-E-B President Scott McClelland wrote the forward to The Winning Game Plan. Rootes dedicates the book to late Texans owner Bob McNair. Rootes' book is a fun read. All I kept thinking was, where was this book when I needed it? And before you buy too much into Rootes as a leader, consider that Rootes admits that he had to ask for wife Melissa's permission before he could accept the Texans job.

Personal note: I believe that a big part of leadership is the ability to keep a promise. Several years ago, I was riding my bicycle with my dog Lilly on a leash. It was the only way I could keep up with her. Well, one time Lilly saw a squirrel and pulled me off my bicycle. I tumbled a few times and rolled next to the curb. When I looked up, there was Jamey Rootes. I told him, "There's no need for you to tell anybody about this." He never said a word.

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