After such a confusing season, the Dynamo upsetting the L.A. Galaxy proves they were playoff worthy. So, why was this season such a roller coaster and what led to the failure?
Imagine coming off the Western Conference Finals, your team is one of the leagues prestigious winners in MLS history, and then the team drops a bombshell and struggles the next season. Sound familiar? Indeed, that is the Houston Dynamo description of how the last two seasons have gone. Complete opposites. But, why exactly did the season take a dive off the cliff? Well, the answer to that is visible, yet complex.
Awful Road Record
Here is something to digest. The Dynamo had two road wins all season long. Remember, the season began on March 3rd and ended on October 28th. So two, count them, two road wins. The first road win was on May 20th against the Chicago Fire. The second? Sunday against the L.A. Galaxy. In essence, not a great road record. Among the league’s worst actually.
With so many road losses, it was hard from the beginning to make up ground. However, those road wins were so impressive because it displayed their toughness. Especially against the Galaxy on the final day. Going into the second half, LA was already up 2-0. Naturally, a team playing for pride would’ve given up. Quite the contrary happened actually.
And the Dynamo had several other performances that showcase their ability. For example, the performance put on at home against the Portland Timbers proved this team was talented enough to compete.
The latter game was a home win. However, the point is the Dynamo gave up points with too many ties and too many games dropped on the road. But that is not the only reason the Dynamo failed this season.
No team is immune to the dreaded injury bug. As a matter of fact, happens to all the teams at some point. Unfortunately for Houston, the injuries came in and really derailed their hopes.
De La Garza’s injury came prior to the Dynamo’s playoff run last season, where he tore his ACL and missed most of this season. A quick and savvy defender, his presence was missed this season. Without a doubt, De La Garza is the anchor to this defense, especially on set pieces, an area Houston struggled in all season long.
To sum up the injuries as a whole, imagine having to rotate a different defensive back line week after week. That sums up the injuries for Wilmer Cabrera and the Houston Dynamo. Several key defenders were in and out this season. Aside from De La Garza and Watts, Juan David Cabezas missed time alongside Phillipe Senderos.
While the defense suffered most of the injuries, there was one offensive option missing as well. Yes, Mauro Manotas was great. However, even he could have used some help up on the wing. The versatile Andrew Wegner missed time as well. The Dynamo missed his ability to line up in defense or in the midfield when need be.
Taking too many possessions off and lack of consistency
At times, it seemed that the Dynamo looked lost and confused. Often times, they looked slow at first and then they played up to speed. The two players that win consistent player of the season are Midfielder Alberth Elis, and Forward Mauro Manotas. While the rest of team caught up, these two were always alive and well.
However, last I checked, a team is made up of 11 on the field. Not two. There were many winnable games against lesser opponents that the Dynamo didn’t take seriously. And then they go on to comeback against playoff contenders like the Galaxy, Timbers, and Fire. Literally, it made no sense. Scoring goals was no problem for this team. But the defense is another story. We’ve already covered the crushing injuries. However there was one more undoing of the Houston defense.
Set pieces. An important concept to the tactical side of soccer (or futbol as many call it). As a matter of fact, many close games are decided on how well executed those free kicks and set pieces are. Unfortunately, the Dynamo just could not defend those well enough. In fact, they gave up too many fouls for their own good.
Often times the Dynamo were caught flat-footed on those set pieces, most coming off corner kicks. If Houston wasn’t being beaten on the counter-attack, they were most likely beat on a set piece. Of course, when your back line is constantly hurt and rotating there will be consistency issues. However, there is no excuse for fouling so much and failing to defend your mistakes. Quite simply, this season on the defensive side can be described as slow and flat-footed. And again, we return to consistency issues.
It seems that Houston only played when down in the first half. Don’t believe me? Look how alive the Dynamo were at the beginning of the season.
Now follow that beautiful performance with a lackluster performance against the Seattle Sounders later on in the season.
Notice the difference? A talented team nonetheless, but just too many mistakes and lack of energy.
An entertaining season by the Dynamo filled with too many mistakes, lack of life on defense, and a team marred by the injury bug. No doubt, this team was talented enough to make another playoff push. However, things just didn’t line up for Houston. Maybe with some rest, retention of important pieces, and a hungry attitude will lead to better things in 2019.
Until then, the Dynamo will have to settle for watching the playoffs instead of being a part of it. On the bright side, the L.A. Galaxy will be watching from home as well. Sorry, Zlatan. Maybe next year.
See you next season, Orange Nation.
Hardworking, loyal, and passionate. I love the people that surround me because they allow me to be who I am. A lover of sports, video games, and life itself. I am a son, a brother, an uncle, and a person who holds nothing but love in his heart. I do this for Rosa Maria Magana and Edward Magana. A.k.a my folks in heaven. Music and sports keep me alive and well.