SOCCER MATTERS

Houston Dynamo win 2018 U.S. Open Cup

Damarcus Beasley and the Dynamo celebrate winning the U.S. Open Cup. Photo courtesy of Nigel Brooks

The Houston Dynamo ended a 10 year title drought as a 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Union crowned them the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Champions.

Mauro Manotas scored two goals in the 4th and 25th minutes to give the Dynamo the lead at halftime before an Auston Trusty own goal secured the victory in the 65th minute. The Dynamo forward also extended his season total to 20 goals across all competitions - the only player in team history to accomplish that in a single season.

“The team was spectacular,” said Manotas. “The mentality with which we came out was what we needed. When the team is involved and committed, nobody can beat us. Today we showed it.”

The Open Cup title - the club’s first major championship since the 2007 MLS Cup - is the first trophy with the club for all members of the roster as no players remain from that famed group that won back-to-back MLS titles. Ricardo Clark, the last player remaining from that team, was not extended in the offseason.

Manotas, 23, is part of a young crop of players that look to bring success through the next couple of years. Midfielder Tomas Martinez, 23, Defender Alejandro Fuenmayor, 22, and MLS All-Star Forward Alberth Elis, 22, were the other players under the age of 25 in the team’s starting lineup.

Despite the double, Manotas also attributed the win to the return of fellow Colombian and 2017 Team MVP Juan David Cabezas. The 27-year-old Cabezas has missed 25 MLS matches this season and his absence has been felt as the team is all but eliminated from the playoff race.

“The team recognized that it was time to stop committing the same mistakes from past games,” said Cabezas. “It was a beautiful opportunity for us to set a different tone for the season. In the regular season, it has not been easy. Having the championship so close, we said that we needed to put in our all and, surely, would celebrate after. Celebrating is what we are doing now.”

The title is also a first for some Houston area natives. Houston born Arturo Alvarez, 33, Spring’s Tyler Deric, 30, and Wharton’s Memo Rodriguez, 22, are the first Dynamo players with local roots to receive a medal with the team, the latter two being products of the Academy.

For veterans like 34-year-old Oscar Boniek Garcia, the longest tenured Dynamo on the roster in his seventh season with the club, and 36-year-old DaMarcus Beasley the trophy was a long time coming. The four-time FIFA World Cup veteran Beasley picked up his third U.S. Open Cup title - his first club title in eight years - and was one of three players in the starting XI with cup experience alongside goalkeeper Joe Willis, a 2013 winner with D.C. United, and defender Philippe Senderos, who won the 2004–05 FA Cup with English giant Arsenal.

“The players, the coaches put so much effort into trying to win this cup,” said Beasley. “And it’s even sweeter because of the season we’ve been having. Like I said before, this doesn’t save our season, but at the same time, it feels damn good to win this cup, to be champions.”

What is the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup?

In it’s 105th edition, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is the oldest soccer competition in the United States. An amateur tournament for much of its history, the Open Cup is a national knockout tournament contested annually by teams in all divisions of American soccer throughout the course of the regular season.

Like the AFC Championship in the National Football League, the U.S. Open Cup is named after the iconic business owner Lamar Hunt. Hunt was one of the driving forces in American soccer and his family owns the Major League Soccer club FC Dallas, who now houses the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

While the MLS Cup is the premier title in U.S. soccer, the Open Cup is still a prestigious championship and one that comes with similar benefits - a $300,000 prize and a spot in the Concacaf Champions League next season.

What does it mean for the Dynamo?

The Dynamo became the first professional sports team to lift a trophy on Houston soil since the 2000 Houston Comets and the first men’s team to do so since the 1994-95 Houston Rockets.

Next year, the Dynamo will play in a third competition - and start the season one month sooner in February - as this title qualifies them to the 2019 Concacaf Champions League. While their opponent is yet to be determined, the team will have to opportunity to have international fixtures against competition from either Canada, Mexico, Central America or the Caribbean.

The lowest spender in MLS, the Dynamo Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera has already stated that the team will need to be appropriately reinforced in the offseason to be able to compete.

 

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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