In their final home match before a grueling summer schedule begins, the Houston Dynamo took care of business in a rough and tumble match against the Vancouver Whitecaps, with a final score of 2 – 1.
With Houston vastly outnumbered in midfield for all but the final stretch of the game, the Dynamo relied on their speed to stretch the ‘Caps midfield and exploit the spaces vacated. Romell Quioto and Alberth Elis were a constant thorn for the visiting defense as the Honduran Internationals constantly found little pockets of space to exploit behind the wingers. The defense was put on watch in the opening minute of the game when Mauro Manotas whipped in a cross that Quioto wasn’t quite able to get on cleanly, putting his shot high and wide.
It was this same pattern that would repeat throughout the game with it finally paying off in the 15th minute. Quioto spun around a defender to give himself some space. After picking up his head, he lofted the ball towards the far post where Elis was able to jump over two defenders, and head the ball past David Ousted. From there the Dynamo did well to control the rest of the half and keep the Whitecaps mostly on their back feet. It wasn’t easy, however, as the game was constantly brought to a halt with fouls. Most occurred in midfield but a few happened around the box (more on that later).
Despite how well the game was going, the constant tussle between Houston’s counter-attack and Vancouver’s controlled midfield got physical, resulting in Elis suffering a right-left injury. The Honduran was subbed off for Erick Torres in the 31′, forcing a shuffle of the forward line. With Cubo now the center-forward and Manotas out wide, the offense continued to click. The pair constantly switched positions, dragging defenders away. This lead to several great chances the young Colombian will want back. The best of the bunch being a cross from Quioto in the 50′ that Mauro wasn’t able to get low enough from point blank range.
All wasn’t for naught after a cross from Alex towards the penalty spot was missed by Manotas due to being shoved away by Kendall Waston. The Costa Rican was whistled for the foul and Torres easily scored the ensuing penalty, sending Ousted the wrong direction.
The game seemed destined for another clean-sheet but as the clock wore on, the Whitecaps increasingly took control of the game. This happened in no small part due to Brek Shea entering the game for the final 20 minutes. While not 100% recovered from his injury, he had pace enough to give the midfield and defense fits. As the ‘Caps dominated more and more of the possession, they kept on winning freekicks deeper into the Dynamo’s half. One deadball outside the box saw Christian Bolanos find the head of Shea who easily put the ball past Joe Willis. With minutes left in the match, the Dynamo did well to push the ‘Caps back into their own half and run down the clock.
The win temporarily puts Houston in the #1 spot in the Western Conference ahead of the slate of games Saturday and Sunday. It’s highly unlikely they’ll remain as such.
As fun, and frustrating as the game was, the real story is the attendance issues the Dynamo are having. The announced attendance is way down from last season (which itself is down and so on). The actual butts in seats numbers are even worse. Clearly the fanbase is upset with the team and is showing their displeasure in the most effective way possible. So what is the beef and how can the team fix it? The biggest problem has been roster mismanagement since 2014. Despite a need for a massive rebuild, the team slowly trudged along with some tinkering here and there. For too long the same failed tactics and players were trotted out with the team falling further down the standings. It was also clear that the team was entering a cost cutting mode as staffing at the stadium was reduced. Season ticket holders reported being less attached to their reps, receiving less calls and emails. The package became more and more trimmed down.
So how can the team get the fans back? Step one has already begun with an offense that scores goals consistently. And not just one or two players but four quality strikers. It’s not perfect yet as the team’s seeming inability to get points on the road (so far) shows. Still, it’s progress and fans can and will pick up on that. But what really needs to happen is for the marketing and sales department to reconnect with their fans, especially those who have slipped through the cracks over the years. Getting them back will require a lot of work but any relationship that is hurting always does. It’ll require an investment from ownership to increase the sales staff so they have a manageable workload, and reconnecting with the soccer community.
With a road heavy schedule coming up, now is a good time for the work to begin. When things balance out in late summer and early fall, hopefully hard work in the interim will result in stronger attendances down the stretch. Also, hopefully, the team will be in strong standing by then, making the latter half of the season a worthwhile venture.
In the meantime, Houston is on the road for three straight: Philadelphia, Atlanta (that’ll be a barn burner) and Frisco. Vancouver, meanwhile return after their lengthy road trip to host Sporting, Montreal and DC.
Who was your Man of the Match? Think Houston can remain unbeaten at home for the rest of the season? How many points should the team eye over the next three weeks? Whatever your thoughts, drop them down below or on Twitter and Facebook at KeeperNotes.