MLS Recap-Week 11

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Houston Dynamo-2   Vancouver Whitecaps-1   (BBVA Compass Stadium-Houston)

HOU: Elis-15 (Quioto), Torres-58 (Penalty)   VAN: Shea-85 (Bolanos)

Three Observations:

The Story of the Night Was Defense….Both Good…..

The recent string of home Dynamo collective defensive efforts continued Friday night. Special credit for this must be given to central defender Adolfo Machado, who seems to be increasingly more comfortable each game he plays.  Machado is clearly stepping up to assume the kind of leadership role he had with the title winning teams at Saprissa in Costa Rica, where he previously played.  The Diego Maradona like run he made down the sidelines to kill the clock in extra-time was just icing on the cake.  The Dynamo had 39 clearances on the night and Machado had 13 of them himself.  He also finished with the high Dynamo Audi Index score on the night, 693.  Whitecaps forward Freddy Montero also gave credit to new holding midfielder Juan David Cabezas during his post-game comments to Victor Araiza on houstondynamo.com:

“It’s a complicated defense,” said Montero. “When they can clear a ball, they do so and they are very consistent. They are aggressive too in the midfield. I think that Juan David Cabezas by himself runs box to box and he brings the team together. We couldn’t take advantage of the space we had in the first half and we finally scored a goal towards the end, but we didn’t have enough time to get more.”

….And Unfortunately Bad Too

The Dynamo committed a collective 19 fouls during the match.  Everybody got in on the fun, except goalkeeper Joe Willis and two substitutes.  These led to a continual stream of dangerous free-kicks for the Whitecaps.  The most unfortunate was the late foul committed by DaMarcus Beasley on Bryan-native substitute Brek Shea.  This led to Shea scoring a goal off the resulting free kick by midfielder Christian Bolanos,  who was the best Whitecaps player Friday night.  Shea eluded Andrew Wenger and finished the direct kick off with a rocket-header that Joe Willis had no chance to stop.

Now the Road Fun Begins

Shockingly to all of the preseason league pundits (and me too I must admit), the Dynamo now sit tied for first place in the Western Conference with 19 points a quarter of the way through the season.  Unfortunately, all of these points have come at home. The team has only played 3 road games this season, losing all of them with a negative-six goal differential.  Since they can’t play all 34 regular season games at home, the road trips have to resume sometime-and that is now. Five out of the next six are away from home.  The Dynamo start with two games this week…at a suddenly hot Philadelphia Union on Wednesday night and against a very technically skilled and exciting Atlanta United next weekend.  The team finishes the first half of the road trip against undefeated FC Dallas, before returning home for a midweek match against Real Salt Lake.  The Dynamo then finish the 5-of-6 road game stretch with back-to-back West Coast trips.  In an article by Jesus Acevedo Jr. on mlssoccer.com Rommel Quioto had this to say about the upcoming road stretch:

“Yes, we’re conscious of the fact that we are a strong team at home. Now we need to fight on the road to get points.  I think we have to win a road game, we’re not going to lose all of them.”

Portland proved last year that you can go an entire season without winning a road game. I hope Wilmer Cabrera has a better strategy than this to win on the road over the next few weeks.

FC Dallas (FCD)-1   New York City FC (NYCFC)-1   (Toyota Field-Frisco, TX)

FCD: Acosta-20 (Urruti, Barrios)   NYC: McNamara- 68 

Three Observations:

Don’t Give Up Free Kicks in Front of the Penalty Box When David Villa is on the Field

FCD did this not once, but twice, on consecutive plays in the second half. Villa slammed the second one off the crossbar and Tommy McNamara then beat Matt Hedges to the goal line to head it in. This was statistically a fairly even game, though NYCFC controlled the possession for long stretches, including the entire second half.

Sean Johnson was my Man of the Match

It is sometimes hard to remember just how highly regarded current NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson was a few years ago.  At one point Johnson, who starred on United States Youth National Teams, was considered to be one of a handful of potential heir-apparent’s to the starting Men’s National Team goalkeeping job.  Unfortunately,  he then encountered a string of setbacks, some self inflicted and some not.  It all started with the extra-time, jaw-dropping howler he allowed against El Salvador in a match which knocked the U.S. U-23’s out of the 2012 Olympics.  (minute 4:15 mark in the You Tube below)

Since then, there have been injuries, poor and inconsistent form and a long-stretch with a bad Chicago Fire team.  Last night, however, Johnson’s four saves were instrumental in the victory, none more important than the huge one he pushed into the crossbar off a wicked shot from Maxi Urruti. Johnson, who was finally freed by Chicago last offseason, arrived in New York via Atlanta United.  It is clear that the talent is still there and hopefully playing with a quality side, coached by an international legend, can get him back into the U.S. National goalkeeping pool.  We certainly can use the help right now.

FCD Will Lose Eventually

The season is long, FCD will play a lot of games this year and the early CONCACAF Champions League run of matches will take its toll at some point.  If they keep up the intensity (especially yesterday’s game), concentration and commitment they show each night so far though, losing may not happen anytime soon and the lull should be brief.

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