Recap: Houston Dynamo vs. San Jose Earthquakes
Houston Starting XI: Willis, K. Garcia, De La Garza, Lundqvist, Fuenmayor, Manotas, Rodriguez, Cabezas(C), Ceren, Martinez, Pena
Houston Subs Used: Machado on for Fuenmayor(45th minute), Quioto on for Rodriguez(45th minute), Elis on for Pena(63rd minute)
San Jose Starting XI: Tarbell, Kashia, Lima, Salinas, Cummings, Yueill, F. Fernandes, Eriksson, Qazaishvili, Thompson, Wondolowski(C)
San Jose Subs Used: Hyka on for Thompson(59th minute), Jungwirth on for F. Fernandes(75th minute), Hoesen on for Eriksson(82nd minute)
There was some early trouble for the Dynamo defense when Thompson broke through the half space on the left side. He crossed the ball over to Wondolowski when he should’ve just taken the shot and the play went dead. Though the early defensive holes were a worry, the Dynamo dominated possession for the first 20 minutes. They weren’t any quality chances to show for it, but they did get a lot of men forward on the attack. San Jose’s Kashia got the first yellow card of the match after going in hard on Cabezas. The subsequent free-kick wasn’t well taken and missed everyone which was the Dynamo’s storyline in the first half. De La Garza showed why the team missed him so much in the 15th minute with a well-timed slide tackle to stop Eriksson from getting in on goal. Pena took Houston’s first shot on target in the 18th minute from the top left corner, but Tarbell settled it easily.
One notable carry over from the U.S. Open Cup Final was the Dynamo’s unique style of pressing. Whenever they lost the ball in San Jose’s half there was an all-out push to get the ball back. I’d call it a sort of proto-Geigen press, similar to the style that Jurgen Klopp likes to use. No matter what you call it, the style worked in a lot of ways. San Jose panicked multiple times on the ball and had to clear the ball or give it away in their own box.
De La Garza popped up again with an important clearance in the 32nd minute, but even if he hadn’t, I’m not sure that anything would’ve come of it. In the 35th minute, it looked like the game was about to get away from Houston. San Jose’s found a wealth of space on the right wing and got into the box easily. Fuenmayor broke off to mark him once in the box but ended up tripping the midfielder, conceding a penalty kick. Wondolowski finished from the spot brilliantly in the 37th minute, beating Willis even though he went the right way.
HOU 0 SJ 1
After the goal was scored, the Dynamo really looked out of sync. It was evident by a particular exchange where Ceren intercepted the ball and ran past the halfway line, then even further and never really found anywhere to put the ball. Houston wasn’t doing a good job of clearing the Earthquakes attacks and weren’t closing the ball down in their own half. In the 45th minute, Thompson got up an aerial through ball put near the six-yard box and managed to cross it over to Wondolowski. Fuenmayor in a desperate attempt to keep the San Jose captain from scoring accidentally kicked the ball into his own net.
HOU 0 SJ 2
Tragedy had struck once again in Houston and it was once again defensive miscues. Of course, there was more than that. The front three of Manotas, Pena, and Rodriguez had put together some nice looking runs but never really found a rhythm. Both Pena and Rodriguez were making more central than wide runs, though Rodriguez was definitely more of an issue. I’ll have more to say at the end but Memo Rodriguez was particularly out of step.
With how out of form the Dynamo were in the first half, Wilmer Cabrera had to make some changes to right the ship. So with two changes, one in defense and one in the attack, the Dynamo charged on. Martinez got a yellow card in the 52nd minute and with a more flippant head referee might’ve gotten more. The Dynamo had been challenging since the start of the half and looked like they were gaining momentum as the game went on. But up to that point, San Jose had been defending well. That is until around the 55th minute when keeper Tarbell whiffed while trying to clear the ball giving Houston a corner. This marked the first of many defensive miscues for San Jose. Shortly after that whiff, Martinez saw a chance and finally opened the San Jose defense up. Martinez threaded the ball between defenders and into the box for Manotas to run onto. Manota,s with his signature poise, finished the shot smashing the ball past Tarbell on the near post in the 56th minute. The goal was his 15th of the year in MLS, giving him the Dynamo record for most goals scored in regular season competitions.
HOU 1 SJ 2
Just like that, the game was alive again. In the 62nd minute, tensions went way up. Quioto brushed past Yueill on his way out for a goal kick and Yueill just hit the floor. Cabezas promptly went over, picked him up and lifted him to his feet causing a major stir among the players. Head referee, Hilario Grajeda, was having none of it so play just went on. Pena had a good chance to shoot in the 63rd but seemed to get caught in indecision between taking the shot or laying it off to Manotas. Not surprisingly, this ended with him being dispossessed and coming off just a couple of minutes later. Once Pena went off for Elis, the game kicked into high gear for the Dynamo. In the 68th minute, a high looping cross fell to Martinez at the far post. Martinez took a touch off his chest before whipping the ball into a tiny space to equalize.
HOU 2 SJ 2
At this point, the Dynamo were making the Earthquake defense uncomfortable almost every second. Every available opportunity was being taken to give Tarbell some extra work and he was just barely up to the task. It’s worth noting that the game could’ve easily begun to spiral out of control around the 75th minute. Both teams were playing hyper-aggressive and San Jose was doing a lot of yelling at the head referee. Grajeda did a great job of managing the game and kept the match moving right along. Even when Cummings spent a lot of his dead time screaming at the line judge. By the final 10 minutes of the match, the stadium was electric and the home crowd soon got something to cheer about. The 87th minute saw Manotas break into the right wing and put a cross in that wasn’t quite stopped by Tarbell. The ball was now at Quioto’s feet and he had a heavy first touch but still managed to finish the ball in the back of the net.
HOU 3 SJ 2
After that, it was just a question of whether the Dynamo could hold the lead, which wasn’t a question easily answered. Remember that Houston has let up a ton of late goals this year. On top of that, San Jose was playing with a lot of heart to try and get the goal back. Even challenging two or three times in the final minutes of the game but it wasn’t quite enough.
Final Score: HOU 3 SJ 2
There’s a lot for the Dynamo and their fans to take away from this match. First, it’s always awesome to see a team show the grit and determination to fight back from a tough spot. Still, there were also some notable player performances and appearances. A.J. De La Garza made his first start since the last match of last season and looked sharp on his return to the MLS from ACL surgery. It’s also hard not to like Adam Lundqvist and how exceptional his reactions can be and the extra pace he adds on the wing. Alberth Elis was electric last night as he broke into the box a couple of different times and scared the pants off of his markers with his dribbling. He also drew two fouls in incredibly dangerous positions.
There are also some rather discouraging things that I saw last night. The Dynamo looked susceptible to getting carved up on the counter-attack and struggled to find a balance between too many and too few men forward. It was also a remarkably bad night for Alejandro Fuenmayor. Not just because of the own goal and conceding the penalty kick, but he also had a multitude of bad passes. Memo Rodriguez frankly did a horrible job of picking Lundqvist up on the wing. Often, he would just completely turn his back on moving up the left flank. Memo chose to cut to the inside channels basically every time he got the ball and it never worked out very well.
So there’s certainly a lot to work on but more than enough to be excited and proud of for the Houston Dynamo. They’ll try to build on the win at home last night when they travel up to Seattle to face the Sounder on 10/8.