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)

Courtesy Houston Dynamo

The Houston Dynamo were held to a 1-1 draw by the Portland Timbers on Wednesday night at BBVA Compass Stadium. Mauro Manotas opened the scoring for Houston in the 40th minute. Portland tied it in the 77th thanks to Liga MX's second top scorer for the Clausura 2019 season, Brian Fernandez, in his MLS debut.

Here are five observations from the win:

1) A missed opportunity

The Dynamo will lament dropping two points at home to a club that has never left Houston with a win. Add on top of that the detail that Portland has played its entire schedule, up to this point, on the road.

The Timbers should've been ripe for the pickings against a Dynamo that has been strong at home and had won every league match except one coming into this game. That non-win was a draw in the home opener against Real Salt Lake, nothing to get too worked up about as both teams were in early season form.

This draw will sting, however, because the Dynamo took the lead and had an opportunity to jump up to second place in the Western Conference standings. Clubs like D.C. United and Sporting KC, with an away game to Minnesota United sandwiched in between, are what's next on the schedule and Portland's performance will give away teams confidence to leave BBVA Compass Stadium with a positive result.

2) Beasley returns as part of lineup rotation

Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera made three changes from the starting XI at Seattle on Sunday. The lineup rotation is due to the team's schedule of three matches in a week.

The most notable of the changes was the return of DaMarcus Beasley at left back. The U.S. Men's National Team Legend and team captain had yet to play in league matches and was sidelined during the team's Concacaf Champions League elimination at Tigres UANL in March.

Aljaz "Kiki" Struna, one of the team's biggest offseason acquisitions, also returned to the starting XI being left out of the team that traveled to Seattle. Boniek Garcia also returned as a starter after featuring as a sub in the 1-0 away loss over the weekend.

3) Manotas the Timberslayer

Mauro Manotas now has seven regular season goals against Timbers FC, his highest against an MLS club. He's also enjoyed his only MLS hat-trick as well as an important playoff performance against Portland.

More to the context of this season, Manotas picked up his fifth goal to ascend as the team's top scorer. The Colombian continues his way towards another high scoring season as he complements the playmaking of Alberth Elis.

He scored with his chest which only further emphasizes his knack to find the back of the net no matter the fashion. He will be needed again on Sunday as D.C. United visit with one of the world's famed goalscorers in Wayne Rooney.

4) Dependence on Elis

As much as Manotas deserves praise for his goals with the Dynamo, it is Alberth Elis who has been the team's most valuable player. Elis has banked four goals and five assists.

Manotas himself has five goals and four assists but Elis would be missed more on the field if the team were to lose one of the two. Elis has been a player teams absolutely have to account for and, when he is contained - as we've seen in the two Dynamo losses this year and the draw on Wednesday, the team struggles to yield wins.

Nobody should be surprised that Elis has been the focal point of opposing defenses, it was expected. What is surprising is that the Dynamo have yet to respond to that strategy and punish teams for being asked to win without him - not to mention prepare in case of the Honduran's departure in the summer transfer window.

5) Big Joe with big saves

During Cabrera's tenure as the Manager of the Dynamo, the goalkeeper spot has always been up for debate and rotations at that position are not rare. Not this season.

Joe Willis has absolutely taken command of the spot both in league action and earlier in the team's Concacaf Champions League run. There is no question between his level of play and his backups.

The Dynamo would've dropped all three points at home without Willis on Wednesday. For that reason, he is the man of the match and an unspoken hero on the team sheet.

Dynamo player of the game: Joe Willis

Next up:

Saturday, April 18 vs D.C. United (7:30 p.m. CT, KUBE57) [ESPN+ for U.S. non-Houston markets]

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