All posts by sonchyenne

Dynamo Dig Into Depth, Come Up With Three Points

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

Houston Dynamo best D.C. United, 2-1

The Honduran influence on the Houston Dynamo is undeniable. The team has leaned heavily on the camaraderie and cohesion of their Honduran recruits in the last couple of years, but Saturday night’s match against Wayne Rooney and D.C. United required Houston to mix up its lineup and call on their depth outside of the Catrachos sphere.

Maynor Figueroa, the club’s newest Honduran player, received the news at the end of Wednesday night’s match that his father had lost his battle with cancer. A veteran defender, fans expected him to be a backup in support of some of our younger center-backs, but Figueroa has been a powerful force starting in 13 matches so far this season.

The team paid tribute to Figueroa’s father with black armbands and a special team photo ahead of the match. His absence against D.C. was the first hurdle Houston’s lineup would face.

Fans were thrilled Saturday to see our two Honduran forwards – Romell Quioto and Alberth Elis – finally paired up again in the lineup. This excitement was short lived, however, as Elis took a hard knock less than a minute into the match that led to his removal. Homegrown player Memo Rodriguez replaced him in the eleventh minute.  

The Dynamo defense managed well in the first half, their offense lined up chance after chance but were not able to finish, and the first half ended with a no goal tie.

The second half started seemingly before the Dynamo defense was ready, as Wayne Rooney took advantage of too much space and scored in the 46th minute. The Houston defense woke up after that and held DC United to the single goal while the offense continued to work to find a payoff from several chances.

Searching for an answer to the finish, Coach Wilmer Cabrera pulled our remaining Honduran forward out of the match just past the hour mark. Tommy McNamara replaced Romell Quioto in the 66th minute, and the match pace changed completely.

The Dynamo found the goal they had been looking for in the 67th minute from early sub Memo Rodriguez. And just one minute later, the second substitution paid off with Tommy Mac scoring his first Dynamo goal with a show of pure will, battling United’s Hamid for a cross at the far post and joining the ball in the back of the net.

Photo Credit: Leslie Chairez

While the Dynamo are having an amazing start to 2019 and are still undefeated at home, this match is a landmark in the squad’s season. Lingering questions around their depth were answered and the men in orange proved that personnel changes in any of their lines can be mastered.

Even the unfortunate loss of our playmaker Alberth Elis was managed, which may be important as many expect to see him traded in the summer transfer window. The boost of securing three points against the top team in the Eastern Conference is just what Houston needed.

Hopefully, the Dynamo will take this confidence with them on the road as we visit Minnesota next Saturday night.   

Featured image: @Its_Leslieeeee

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @sonchyenne

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Dynamo and Timbers Draw, 1-1, In Houston

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

The Houston Dynamo and the Portland Timbers are two of the most intense clubs currently playing in MLS. Houston is an underrated squad on a hot-streak with a lot to prove, while Portland is an MLS late model flagship that had a rough start to the 2019 season, frantic to regain status.

When two groups like this meet, especially in the steamy humidity of a late spring Houston evening, tempers rise with the temperature and teams often play powderkeg matches just waiting for a spark.

The match was predictably physical, and the Dynamo once again showed off their offensive dominance in the first half. Portland’s defenders were pushing hard, but the Dynamo were relentless. The incessant Dynamo offense paid off in the 40th minute when Mauro Manotas scored his sixth goal of the season.

The Timbers’s number 4 defender, Jorge Villafaña, stuck to Houston’s Alberth Elis in the early part of the match with aggressive tactics I haven’t seen since the dance floor at my last college party. His handsy defense moved on to cover Boniek Garcia later in the half which would be the spark that this match was waiting for.

Of all of the players on the Dynamo roster, Oscar Boniek Garcia is known for his likability and consistently happy demeanor. The Honduran native is known to play with a smile on his face, so the early signs of hostility toward the Timbers were apparent to most fans around the stadium.

His usual sportsmanlike play was replaced with rough challenges and post-drop stare-downs. As the captain’s patience faded, the rest of the team seemed to match his mood and the play on the field began to show lots of strain.

Even the halftime break was not enough to cool tempers for the Portland or Houston players as the rough play continued with the start of the second half whistle.

At 50 minutes, after a tough challenge in the midfield left Dynamo player Tomas Martinez on the pitch, Portland denied to play the ball out while he recovered. This led to lots of words and more than a few shoves exchanged between several of the players, but no cards were issued as a result of the dust up.

Contentious matches like this one should be controlled by the officials, who can maintain fairness and hold players to a reasonable standard. In this match, the players and the match were in the hands of well-known referee Ted Unkel.

The eccentric officiating favored both and neither teams at different points in the match, and Unkel ultimately concluded the match with no radio after tossing it to the sideline late in the second half.

Portland leveled the match shortly after a 65th minute substitution brought on their recent Argentinian acquisition Brian Fernández, and the match concluded with the 1-1 draw. While both teams played desperately for all three points, I consider the match to be a lucky draw – the real win being both teams walking away with no serious injuries and no disciplinary suspensions.

The Dynamo’s depth will be tested again at their third match in eight days against D.C. United on Saturday at home.

Featured image: @HoustonDynamo

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Houston Dynamo Fall to the Sounders: A Different Perspective

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

I joined Houston Dynamo fans at a local restaurant chain to watch our team take on the Seattle Sounders on Saturday night. The simultaneous UFC fight audio was appropriate for the match, as the Dynamo and Sounders played an intensely physical game full of big hits and rough play.

My step-son, who was watching the match elsewhere, shared his initial thought on the match after the Sounders’ Roldan made an amazing volley at 5’, giving them the early lead.

He is an amazing 12 year old, a defender on his U14 team, and a recreational referee, so his opinions on matches are always interesting. I’ll let his commentary help me tell the story of the match.

The 23rd minute brought the first of many off-frame shot attempts from the Dynamo, this one by Alberth Elis. While the first half was largely dominated by excellent offensive efforts by the Dynamo, they were simply unable to target effectively.

As we neared the end of the first half, the Dynamo’s offense began to struggle and started giving away a lot in the midfield. The Dynamo have an oft-lethal counterattack so I was hopeful,  but the kid was pragmatic. Neither team was bashful about full-contact play, but late in the first half, Seattle’s Kim used a bear hug to slow down Alberth Elis.

While Elis was able to maintain control despite being manhandled, the referee’s claim of advantage left Elis angry. Equally frustrated, the kid declares the foul:

(He’s 12…forgive the spelling)

We traded strategy as Houston’s poor shot calibration continued, and the first half closed with another wasted shot from Manotas that rose to the heavens instead of the occasion.

Things really began to go off the rails in the second half. The Dynamo’s frustrations blossom into poor organization and worse judgment. The referee began to answer Houston’s calls for better officiating by bringing it down on their efforts. AJ Delagarza was booked for a silly foul in the 59th minute and I consulted my favorite ref on the call.

Houston’s Wilmer Cabrera began subbing at the 70th minute, but the new blood on the pitch fell prey to the same issues. Tommy McNamara came in at 72’ and quickly loosed another off-target shot.

While I won’t lay all of the blame of this loss on the officiating, the referee continued to have a lot of influence and intrusion on the play as the match reached its final moments. At one point, Seattle’s Bruin found himself having to shimmy around the referee during a drive.

Houston finished the night with only one shot on target for all of their efforts, and their loss was held to 1-0 through the luck of the crossbar.

Houston faces its busiest schedule this week since finishing up their CCL run, and the decision to rest some of its regular defensive starters most certainly affected the results of the match. However, Houston’s depth must be able to stand up to these tests. The Dynamo will have a chance to prove themselves again at home this Wednesday against Portland and then head out to the east coast to battle DC next Saturday.

Thanks so much to my step-son for permission to use his texts in today’s retelling.

Featured image: @HoustonDynamo

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Houston Gets 3 Points from Dallas in First Leg of Texas Derby

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

Houston Dynamo beat FC Dallas 2-1.

Rivalry matches are their own kind of animal, and the Texas Derby is no exception. The first leg between the Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas on Saturday had controversy and conflict that paled in comparison to the drama ahead of the match. I played into the narrative with the final lines of my last article, but the situation heated up over the week – sparking into a blaze on Thursday.

Ahead of this season, the front office announced the addition of a cannon in the stadium, perched above the supporters’ section. While it does allude to El Capitán, the oft-traded derby  trophy, this one is orange and will be a permanent fixture in Dynamo stadium.

The original article released about the cannon indicated that the FO would work with supporters to name the new cannon. At the home opener, it was announced that the cannon would be called “Ponce” after an amazing man and fan that the Dynamo family lost in 2016.

Thursday evening, Dallas’s Twitter account released an animation poking fun at Houston’s new cannon, implying that we had purchased our own replacement since El Capitán is currently being held outside of Dallas.

Houston fans were livid and responded quickly. Some reminded Dallas of their own habit of purchasing items that they hadn’t managed to earn, re-sharing a rivalry tweet that I have mentioned. Others called for Dallas to delete the tweet and scolded them for desecrating the tribute to our late friend.

After some initial pushback, Dallas did, in fact, delete the tweet and posted this apology.

The fire had started, however, and Houston fans came into Saturday’s match looking for vengeance.

It appeared that Houston spent much of its passion on the rivalry hype and had little left to bring onto the pitch. While they did dominate gameplay in the first half, the cohesion and finishing finesse that marked the team’s early success was missing.

Turnovers were plentiful, and even our penalty goal in the first half was the result of a lazy dive from Alberth Elis (that’s right, I said it!). The team’s second-half goal from Mauro Manotas was the only hint of the level of play that has been seen this year.

Dynamo fans’ fear of the last 10 minutes, where so many games were lost last season, returned as the final moments brought Dallas’s best efforts, the referee’s strangest moments, and near-tragedy for Houston.

Dallas’s Badji wiped out Houston’s clean sheet with a goal at 87’. Houston’s McNamara received a yellow card at 88’ which the ref reviewed randomly for 4 minutes. Houston defender Cabezas committed a silly foul at 96’ which Mosquera almost converted to a goal, had he not lined up for the free kick in an offside position.

The Dynamo were tied at 2-2 for a full minute before the goal was called back unceremoniously and we were able to walk away with the win. Regardless of how they were earned, we will take those three points and see Dallas again on their home turf in August.  

Featured image: @lesliecphotos

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @sonchyenne

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Still Unbeaten At Home, Houston Earns A Shutout

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

Saturday, April 27: 2-0 win

The Houston Dynamo know a little bit about streaking, holding the league record for the longest unbeaten streak at home. Despite past success, the reality of most streaks in professional sports is that they will come to an end. Last week, the Dynamo’s winning start to their MLS season ended with a loss to the Galaxy, and the men in orange came into Saturday’s match against the Columbus Crew ready to begin their next unbeaten streak, and to keep their undefeated-at-home record intact.

From the first moments of the match, it was clear that the Dynamo’s early success was not a fluke. Houston came out strong, and Mauro Manotas scored in the third minute. This is not to say that the Crew did not bring a tough competition to Houston. I was impressed with the Crew’s defensive efforts. Alberth Elis’s usual trick of skipping the ball ahead of a defender and then shifting into a fast gear to catch up out of the defender’s reach was simply not enough, as the Crew’s Abubakar had the speed to answer this offensive tactic.

In fact, the Dynamo’s first goal from Mauro Manotas came off of a sloppy pass into the box from Elis as Abubakar was crowding back in. Manotas’s positioning was precise, but the fact that Elis was rushed meant that Manotas hadn’t had time to fully shake Columbus defenders Sauro and Trapp. When the three collided in front of the goal just behind the pass, Manotas was just able to get a foot on the ball to score a messy first goal.

The Dynamo’s offense was quick to recognize the need to shift and changed tactics. Their efforts paid off again in the 55th minute as Tomas Martinez was left all alone at the top of the penalty box with no defender pressing, a moment to think, and his amazing left foot. He loosed a rocket of a shot that flew over the defenders that had crowded in close to cover Elis and Manotas, doubling the Dynamo’s lead and securing their win.

Saturday’s matchup between the Dynamo and the Crew was much more than an offensive tale. The defenders on both sides were the real stories of the match. I’ve already discussed the Crew’s ability to shut down Houston’s offense, and alternately Houston was able to counter Columbus’s Zardes and their well-organized counters with talent and precision.

The Dynamo’s offseason effort to build up the depth in the defensive half was on display at BBVA Compass Stadium. Maynor Figueroa and Kiki Struna put forth great efforts, and around the hour mark when the Dynamo’s defenses started to get panicked and sloppy, Coach Wilmer Cabrera brought in Darwin Ceren who settled the line with some key defensive maneuvers right off the bench. Most importantly, goalkeeper Joe Willis achieved his first shutout of the season.


Houston’s forwards gather up the defensive line to celebrate their win against Columbus Crew.
Credit: Houston Dynamo twitter

The Dynamo play at home again next Saturday, when they  welcome rivals FC Dallas to Texas. Let the rival talk begin!

Featured image: CanchaTV

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @sonchyenne

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A One Man Story: Houston Dynamo Fall to LA Galaxy

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

Going into last weekend, the Houston Dynamo were rested, undefeated, and ready to battle Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the LA Galaxy. While both teams have had a positive start to the season, the Galaxy came in with fewer goals and wins despite more matches played. On both the west and the third coast, previews centered around Ibrahimovic – Houston reminding fans that Zlatan had yet to score on the Dynamo and LA simply painting their social media with his image. For this writer, however, the man to focus on going into this match was Houston defender AJ DeLaGarza.

AJ played for the Galaxy for eight years before coming to the Dynamo in 2017, and the popularity that he had with those fans is still going strong today.

LA’s Angel City Brigade honors AJ’s presence with a banner featuring his charity, LucaKnowsHeart, named for his late son who was born with a congenital heart defect.

Houston didn’t have to wait long to find out why DeLaGarza is so loved, as he quickly thrilled us with a strong Twitter jab at our rivals. The Houston soccer community was immediately won over.

AJ’s social media has continued be a fan favorite – even keeping him relevant through an ACL injury that kept him out for most of the 2018 season. His old posts are an inspiration as I battle my own injury/surgery recovery struggles today.

As the Dynamo traveled to LA for Friday’s match, AJ shared stories of catching up with friends and family. His demeanor early in the match looked as though the time in LA had really fed him. The Dynamo played well and their defense seemed to have a plan to shut down the Zlatan-centered LA attack, up until the thirtieth minute when the man himself – AJ DeLaGarza – panicked in the box and shut Zlatan down with a bear hug tackle that earned a penalty for the Galaxy.

Ibra converted the penalty and finally had his first goal against Houston. LA led the match until the Dynamo’s own offensive superstar, Alberth Elis, received his own penalty shot and tied the match in the 53rd. A Polenta goal in the 88th minute brought victory to the Galaxy, but the stats of the match show a very even game that could have gone either way.

Fans on both sides looked to that bear hug in the box as the moment where the match broke open for the Galaxy. AJ showed his class again on social media – admitting his error, making no excuses, and not shying away from or lashing back at disappointed fans. While the soccer community, LA fans, and Zlatan himself see this match as a story about Zlatan’s victory, I see the man on the other side of that pivotal moment as the true protagonist.

AJ DeLaGarza stands above many others as an example of how to build a dynastic career in one city, transfer and build on that positive reputation, and to survive a defeat with aplomb. Zlatan claimed this week to be MLS, but I believe that players like AJ should define the the league. His positivity and sustained success is what the league needs to continue to grow the fan base.      

Featured image: AJ DeLaGarza, @AJD_20, on Twitter and @LASoccerNation on Instagram

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @sonchyenne

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The Houston Dynamo Continue Their UnBeaten Streak at Home

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

I AM biased, but it seems that the Houston Dynamo often fail to get the coverage that they deserve in the wider soccer community. This is one of the reasons I was eager to cover my team for MLSFemale.

It’s not just me – evidence continues to pile up that the Dynamo simply aren’t getting a lot of respect with this season’s efforts. Last week, super-fan Web Tilton called out MLS on Twitter with one of their recent snubs, when a review indicated that there were three undefeated teams, ignoring the Dynamo’s undefeated record.

Even among the soccer locals, the team’s successes are misrepresented. As the Team Manager for my stepson’s U14 Dynamo affiliate team, I am often asked to hype upcoming matches to team parents.

Last week, I got the usual request from a staff member with a Quick Facts section ahead of the purchase link “Dynamo – W4-L1-T0”. I responded back asking if he’d like me to correct his error in the record before sending the email out. Last week we were 3-0-1! While I’m sure it was a simple oversight, this mistake stung. How can local soccer professionals overlook our team’s success as easily as national pundits?

Continuing into last weekend’s matches, one my favorite MLS contributors, Laura Gomez, submitted an article about the Dynamo’s Saturday win. The title of the article sounded more like the Dynamo were gifted a favor with the halftime weather delay.
Weather delay gives Houston Dynamo chance to regroup for home win”

Called out for the slight on Twitter, Gomez indicated it was an editorial change to her original title. Perhaps the MLS editor didn’t understand that the delay applied to both the home team and the visiting San Jose Earthquakes?

My own coverage of Saturday’s Dynamo was challenging since my U14 team had their match at the same time as the Dynamo’s. Thanks to Univision, I was able to use my phone to stream the men in orange while keeping a close eye on my boys in orange.  My husband caught me in full soccer-parent-multitasking mode!

Keeping an eye on all the action. Video credit: Brian Lockridge

The Dynamo first team prevailed 2-1 over the Quakes on Saturday (my U14s didn’t fare as well). Fans missed Memo Rodriguez in the starting 11, as his connection with Alberth Elis has been one of the driving forces behind this season’s offensive success. Elis proved his versatility, however, as he paired with Mauro Manotas with nearly as much ease, scoring an amazing goal in the 52nd minute.

While the Quakes answered back a few minutes later, the Dynamo’s Tomas Martinez scored the game winner just behind that – making for a most exciting 8 minutes of play! The rest of the match was chippy with a number of fouls (called and not – for both sides), culminating in a red card to the Quake’s Lopez in the final minutes for a hard challenge to Captain Boniek Garcia.

The Dynamo continue their unbeaten streak (don’t forget, MLS!) and travel for their second road match of the season to face the LA Galaxy this Friday night.     

Featured image: @lesliecphotos

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @sonchyenne

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Injuries don’t Sideline Houston Dynamo Momentum

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

The ghosts of injuries past are haunting the Houston Dynamo. Defender DaMarcus Beasley was uncharacteristically subbed out only 20 minutes into the team’s March 12 CCL away match against the Tigres. Nothing was said at the time, but the following week Beasley shared a picture on Instagram from a wheelchair after undergoing surgery. The Dynamo confirmed that he had an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee. This is an ongoing issue for the seemingly ageless captain, who had a similar procedure in 2016.

Another defender, Columbian Juan David Cabezas, missed much of last season due to a continuing hamstring issue. While his 2019 return helped forge a win in Dynamo’s Guatemalan CCL match, his injury was aggravated again and he has been on the Injury Report since then. He was tested this week with the Dynamo’s second team in the Rio Grande Valley so we hope to see a return soon.

Of course, new injuries are also appearing with Romell Quioto injuring his right knee training over the international break with Honduras. He posted a photo of his recovery on Twitter this week, saying that he is working hard to return.

The effect of injury strikes me particularly this week as I deal with one of my own. A slip off my deck stairs last week had me posting my own injury report online. I’ll have surgery on my broken foot this week and will be cast-bound for six weeks. I’ll either go crazy during the break or write some really good stuff, so stay tuned and share soccer memes with me on Twitter.  

Injuries aside, the Dynamo continue their fantastic start to this MLS season. After an early stretch of home matches, Houston remained undefeated and carried 7 points into their first away match this weekend. The Dynamo have an especially bad history away with the Colorado Rapids, not having won in Colorado in over a decade. That changed Saturday night as Alberth Elis repeatedly created magic in the box and the Dynamo triumphed over the Rapids 4-1. Elis had a hand in each goal scored – first with a well-timed pass to Memo Rodriguez in minute 4 and finally adding his own mark in the 67th minute.

What happened between was a misguided defensive effort by the Rapids. Attempting to defend in the box as Houston’s scorers pushed up, Elis was able to force two own-goals from the Rapids’ Sjöberg and Rosenberry. In the 81st minute, Houston’s Maynor Figueroa let his arms get away from him during an aerial challenge and a handball was called in the box. Kei Kamara was able to convert the penalty and save the Rapids from a shutout, but the damage was done. Elis earned the Man of the Match title…but some online fun may have been had at the Rapid’s expense…

@Dynamopix, Nigel Brooks, had his own candidate for Saturday’s Man of the Match

This is the best start to a season in Houston Dynamo history. The men in orange get another short break before coming home again to face San Jose on April 13. I’ll be the girl on the knee scooter trying to get players to sign my orange cast!

Featured image: @HoustonDynamo

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @sonchyenne

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The Houston Dynamo Take Blood, Sweat, and Points At Home

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

Top photo: MLSFemale photographer Leslie Chairez perfectly captures the moment before Alberth Elis (foreground) places the ball at Memo Rodriguez’s feet for a goal.

This weekend, the Houston Dynamo hosted the Vancouver Whitecaps, their second Canadian opponent in as many MLS pairings.

Image: Leslie Chairez // mlsfemale

Coming off a 1-0 loss in Mexico that took them out of the CONCACAF Champions League, the men in orange were surprisingly emboldened. Their showing at Estadio Universitario against Tigres was an improved effort to their first leg at home, and they showed a crowd of over 41,000 Tigres fans an impressive level of play. But Saturday, ready to focus squarely on the MLS competition (until Lamar Hunt kicks off in May), the Dynamo set their sights on the Whitecaps.

One of the most notable moments of the match came late in the 76th minute as a no-fault collision in the Whitecaps’ box led to Houston’s Mauro Manotas and Vancouver’s Andy Rose being treated for head injuries. Manotas received gauze and a head wrap, while Rose seemed to get the worst of it. He bled profusely and left the match under concussion protocol, having to be assisted off of the pitch.

The Whitecaps had used their last substitution moments before the collision and were forced to finish the match down a man. At the end of the match, as the coaches met briefly, the concern in Dynamo coach Wilmer Cabrera’s face was clear, and I’m sure that he was expressing hope for a full recovery for Rose.

Image: Leslie Chairez // mlsfemale

While the mid-60s temperatures bordered on cool for Houstonians, the weather is always a factor in these early matches when snow-accustomed teams migrate south to begin the MLS season each spring. There is simply no way for teams from the north to be fully prepared for the Houston environment. In addition to the heat, Houston’s annual spring pollen has recently draped the city in a layer of yellow, and allergy-related ailments are tough to push through.

The match was chilly early on as the cloud cover kept the sun at bay. By the half, most fans had shed their extra layers as the sun came out and gave the day a warmer summer feel. The rising heat index led to increasingly chippy play, lots of late cards, and other uncalled fouls for both sides.

Pollen on the lake and pollen footprints on the deck illustrate the extent to which the Houston area is blanketed with allergens this time of year. – Photos by Darbi Lockridge, from her back porch.

Cabrera’s lineup replaced one of his traditional three forward attackers with midfielder Memo Rodriguez, which I believe to be the key to the Dynamo’s continued offensive magic. Forward Alberth Elis scored his first goal of the season off a penalty and was instrumental with assists in the other two goals scored by Rodriguez. Memo’s brace held the Dynamo up to a 3-2 victory against the Whitecaps.

Their seven-point start to the 2019 season is the best on record for this team and could hearken the coming of a new dominance in the Western Conference for the Dynamo, which have often held an underdog status. After playing seven matches in under a month, the Dynamo and the fans are eager to recuperate through the break before meeting the Colorado Rapids in our first away match on March 30.

Featured image: Leslie Chairez // mlsfemale

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A Tale of Two Competitions

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

Throughout 2018, the Houston Dynamo battled scheduling and defensive injuries through both MLS and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup competitions, shining a light on the lack of depth in the squad. In the end, the team failed to qualify for the MLS playoffs, but brought home the Lamar Hunt Trophy.

General manager, Matt Jordan, spent most of the off-season recruiting players that would improve depth, and the start of 2019 is putting his work to early tests. Juggling two competitions again – the CONCACAF Champions League as well as the MLS regular season – the Dynamo have started their 2019 with a grueling schedule, playing five games so far.

By the middle of March, the team and their fans will have pushed through seven matches over twenty six days – one match every three to four days.

The Dynamo’s second MLS match – against the Montreal Impact – on Saturday afternoon brought some of the biggest lineup changes from head coach, Wilmer Cabrera, to date. His usual switches are in the midfield and defensive lineups, always preferring to flank center forward Mauro Manotas with Honduran forwards Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto.

While he has occasionally removed one or the other, this week’s lineup surprised fans with Elis and Quioto starting on the bench, replaced by attacking midfielders Marlon Hairston and Memo Rodriguez. This is a big switch in strategy for Cabrera that shows the increased levels of confidence in the shooting of Manotas, who is quickly climbing the ladder of all-time Dynamo goal scorers.

Photo by Leslie Chairez, Official Houston Dynamo Photographer for MLSFemale

The recipe of two true midfielders further up the pitch may beat the backline shake ups as the answer to the Dynamo’s defensive lapses, as they triumphed over the Montreal Impact 2-1. The Impact scored in the 34th minute and were quickly answered by a Memo Rodriguez goal at 36’.

The match held even through a long stretch, though the Dynamo offense dominated most of the match. Cabrera replaced the midfielders up front around the one hour mark, bringing in his Honduran forward team. The switch paid off, as Quioto snuck a pass to Manotas inside the box in the 89th minute for the game-winner.

Despite the Impact scoring first, the feeling of the match and the statistics tell a story of an offensive victory for the men in orange. The Dynamo doubled the Impact’s offensive stats in shots and corners (14:7 and 6:3, respectively) and absolutely owned the on-target shots – Montreal’s goal being their only on-target shot to the Dynamo’s six.

The Houston Dynamo must take the confidence won in this MLS match to the CCL this week, as they face the huge task of beating the Tigres by three goals in Mexico to move on. They turn quickly from an undefeated MLS squad to an underdog away team in a matter of moments so both players and staff will need to carry Saturday’s lessons and confidence into Universitario Stadium on Tuesday night.

And just as fast, win or lose, they switch focus again to face the Vancouver Whitecaps at home the following Saturday.

Featured image: Leslie Chairez // mlsfemale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @sonchyenne

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