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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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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