MLS Weekly Recap-Week 7

I had a choice….whether to attend the San Antonio FC or Dynamo match last night.  I chose right by making the short drive to San Antonio instead of the lengthy drive to Houston to witness the Dynamo’s second half defensive shambles.

San Jose Earthquakes-1  FC Dallas (FCD)-1   (Avaya Stadium-San Jose, CA)

SJ:  Hyka-90+4 (Wondolowski)    FCD:  Acosta-78

Last minute woes continue

Apparently FCD has not purged the 2017 end of game defensive mistakes that were first demonstrated in Pachuca a couple of weeks ago.  Another last gasp goal, this time by Jahmir Hyka, in San Jose Friday night led to a very unsatisfying 1-1 draw with the Earthquakes.  There was plenty of blame to go around on this goal.  Too few FCD players behind the ball in the 94th minute (a mystery why this was), Atiba Harris did not clear a bouncing ball he should have and goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez could have done better. Regardless, it resulted in two dropped points that FCD could rue missing out on when it comes time to sort out playoff spots later in the year.

Last minute goal betrayed a good overall performance

Oscar Pareja, when asked about the stoppage time goal summed this point up nicely.

“Unfortunately, that’s the image that lasts for everybody. What happened is that the last minutes of extra time is part of the game also, but my evaluation goes beyond that, so I cannot see it as a fan and say, ‘you know what, the last minute, that’s why we didn’t play well.’ I thought the boys played very well tonight and I thought we all agree with a very well deserved three points for the team and very solid defensive performance, so I have to, as a coach, see the whole game. Unfortunately, we need to talk about the last 30 seconds, but I have to talk about the whole game. The whole game for us was very solid and very good”

Pareja faces tough choices when Mauro Diaz returns

It is still uncertain when Diaz, still on the injured reserve list, will return to training.  FCD has talked about this happening sometime this summer. When that happens, Oscar Pareja will be faced with some interesting decisions.  Diaz is a transcendent player. When he is operating at peak ability, he has the ability to change games like few others in the league.  It does appear, as unfortunate as Diaz’s injury was, that his absence has allowed Kellyn Acosta to grow in ways that likely would not have been possible if Diaz was available.  In his post-game interview, Acosta was candid in his thoughts about the role of Mauro’s absence in his development and the freedom it gives him to operate in the attacking end.  When asked about how he is adapting to playing in the midfield with Carlos Gruezo in a 4-4-2 formation, Acosta made this point about how his relationship with Gruezo was different than it was with Mauro Diaz when they played as part of a 5-man midfield.

“I’ve come to the realization that I have more space to find the pockets, rather then when [former FC Dallas midfielder] Mauro Diaz was there, it was as little bit different because I just tried to help him get his space and I kind of stayed out of the way and let him do his thing.  Acosta then went on to say “When we play with a number 10, he occupies that room and I’m kind of playing off of him. Now I’m playing more in between where I’m kind of just playing off of Carlos and I think that’s really helped me find good spots and be closer to the goal and having some opportunities to finish them off.”

Diaz plays the Number 10 role Acosta describes here.  It will be an interesting challenge for Pareja, given Acosta’s development, to fit Diaz and Acosta into the same midfield when Mauro returns.

Dallas returns home next Saturday to play an on-fire Sporting Kansas City. 

Houston Dynamo-2   Minnesota United-2    (BBVA Compass Stadium-Houston, TX)

HOU:  Manotas-14 (Torres, Clark), Elis-42 (Garcia)  MN:  Ramirez-47 (Molino), Venegas-59

Maddening is the only way to describe this game 

I understand that MLS is a parity league and that anybody can beat anybody on a given night.  I am not sure that applies when you play home games against expansion-side Minnesota United though.  The Dynamo entered this match having won three straight at BBVA Compass Stadium.  Minnesota came to Houston tied for last place with a negative 12 goal differential….by far the worst in the league.  These are home games you must win.  Well the Dynamo managed to give back a 2-0 halftime lead and ended up tying Minnesota 2-2 instead.

Wilmer Cabrera’s worries apparently were not taken seriously in practice last week 

Apparently he thinks so too based on his post game comments on

“We need to get better in our duels. We need to get better in our 1v1 [defending]. We need to have a more solid defense,” Cabrera said. “We can’t lie, we’re giving the ball away too much. We’re one of the teams that has given up a lot of goals. After Minnesota, it’s us.”

Cabrera than did what coaches do.  He took personal responsibility for the 15-minutes at the start of the second half when he said he didn’t recognize the Dynamo and that he was going to emphasize the positive aspects of the game.  OK, but this doesn’t excuse the players who appear to provide weak excuses or are clueless based on their post-game remarks on the MLS website.

Forward Mauro Manotas:  “We’re winning in the first half and then we just relax.  We need more will and attitude entering the second half.”

Joe Willis on the lack of focus in the second half:  “It’s hard to pinpoint it really.  If we could pinpoint it then we’d probably be able to fix the problem.”

Boniek is not a right back but that wasn’t the only issue 

Cabrera, despite evidence to the contrary, said he was pleased with Boniek Garcia’s performance in the loss to New England last week.  AJ DeLaGarza was unavailable again yesterday, so Boniek was in the lineup at that position again.  The first Minnesota goal scored by Christian Ramirez, who was marked by Boniek, came on a header at the far post off a corner kick. Boniek, who should never have been trying to cover a bigger and very talented Ramirez in the first place, had his back turned on the corner and didn’t appear to see the ball before Ramirez jumped over him to score. Boniek brings an attacking presence from the right back position for sure. From my perspective, however, it is one thing to have him play there in an emergency situation with a settled back line….which the Dynamo did not have last night. Cabrera must have figured this out himself as he brought on Kevin Garcia to replace Ricardo Clark in the 58th minute and pushed Boniek up to the midfield.

He wasn’t the only defender who brought more questions than answers last night. DaMarcus Beasley had little impact on the game.  It also appeared that Adolfo Machado and Jalil Anibaba were practicing their matador skills at times in the first half, waving at Ramirez as he split them routinely on his way to goal. Machado was lucky to not have a penalty called when he brought Ramirez down in the 19th minute.  

The conventional wisdom has been that the Dynamo need a Number 10 center-midfielder in the summer transfer window.  A new center-back may be a better acquisition.  The Dynamo have the number one position in the MLS Allocation order. Anybody know the phone number for Geoff Cameron’s agent?  His return to Houston would be welcomed with open arms under any circumstances.  Now the red carpet would be rolled out.  

How do they keep Mauro Manotas off the field?  

A weakness of the Dynamo is that they have three high-salaried players whose best position is basically center forward:  Designated Players (Cubo Torres and Alberth Elis) and another (Manotas) who recently was one too, until his contract was bought down with Targeted Acquisition Money.  With Rommel Quioto on the roster, it unfortunately means that one of these four talented attacking players need to start on the bench.

Until now that has been Manotas.  His performance last night, and also in other games in place of the injured Quioto, will make it hard for Cabrera to keep him on the bench going forward. Mauro’s Audi Player Index number (785) last night was almost 200 points better than the next highest rated player for both teams.  The four-headed attack is a nice problem for Cabrera to have, but I suspect starting on the bench will be frustrating for one of these players.  If that continues to be Manotas, he will get plenty of minutes this season regardless, even when not starting regularly.  Elis and Quito will be gone for the CONCACAF Gold Cup this summer and as the weather gets warmer it will be hard for the starters to play the Dynamo high-pressing style for 90 minutes.

Ricardo Clark has been doing this for awhile

Special shout-out to Ricardo Clark for starting out in the offside position on the direct kick in the video below, then retreating, which allowed Alberth Elis to have a free run on the Dynamo second goal.

The Dynamo stay at home next Saturday for a rare afternoon (if you have ever spent a summer afternoon in Houston you will understand why) game against San Jose Earthquakes.

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