A rare double-last-match today, as we check in on the last match Houston Dynamo played overall and the last match they played in the US Open Cup.
Last match overall
On Saturday night, Houston went into Orlando and fought out a dour 0-0 draw. The Dynamo took a single shot inside the box… and it came in the 91st minute. Not to put too fine a point on it, but there are bad games of soccer, there are soccer games that are not fun to watch, and then there are games that feel eerily similar to how it felt to sit in the last class before summer break in high school. If you watched this match, you know which one it was.
Orlando played with no natural width. Five central midfielders started, and only Yoshi Yotun made an effort to get wide, as he did successfully against the Union on September 1. Mohammed El-Munir supported his midfielder, offering the lone reliable outlet outside the middle of the pitch.
The aim in attacking up the left was to target Houston’s right back and former Union winger Andrew Wenger. As a defender, Wenger can be an asset going forward, but in defensive transitions, he simply doesn’t have the experience or instincts to quickly recover his position. Often caught narrow or high, Wenger struggled to limit Orlando’s control of his side of the field. The Union will have noticed this and may look to push Borek Dockal toward that side of the field early. However, don’t expect Philly to drift too far from their focus on the right side of the pitch. Ale Bedoya’s ability to combine and help dominate that flank is too much of an advantage to give up simply because Wenger can struggle at times.
In attack, Houston looked to push four men forward in the counterattack, with neither holding midfielder venturing too far forward. This left Tomas Martinez to be the main central distributor, as he will likely be on Wednesday. Martinez spent the first half looking to stretch the pitch horizontally, capitalizing on the lack of width from Orlando. Later, Martinez sought to play his wingers in behind the Purple Lions’ defense. This is a particular strength of the central attacker, but it was difficult to get behind a defense that sat deep most of the time. Instead, it was up to Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto to beat their men with the ball.
The match ended without a goal, and that was a fair outcome.
Importantly, Houston started nearly all of their most important players and only Juan Cabezas, a strong holding midfielder, went fewer than 80 minutes. Cabezas was a key player in 2017, but he has yet to go longer than 45 minutes this season. If he starts on Wednesday, expect him to tire after the halftime break, potentially giving Dockal opportunities to get free in the center.
Last US Open Cup match
A wild August 8th match saw Houston knock off favored LAFC at BBVA Compass Stadium. The Dynamo fell behind early, jumped in front by two goals, then executed an agonizing collapse during the final 15 minutes of the match. Their midfield dead on its feet, Houston watched as Diego Rossi completed a hat trick in the 95th minute to complete a comeback and even the match at 3-3.
An excruciating extra time period followed in which both teams combined to put a single shot (from well outside the box) on goal. Weary and dragging in the Southeast Texas humidity, the two clubs finally ended the match in the eighth round of penalty kicks when former Arsenal defender Philippe Senderos scored and Latif Blessing did not.
The victory was a surprise in that LAFC has a more talented roster than Houston, but the fact remains that neither team had notched a league victory in over a month, so Houston exploiting a soft LA defense before the visitors took advantage of the Dynamo’s non-existent depth seems a pretty fair way for things to play out.
Now the Dynamo have a chance to collect their first US Open Cup title when they host the Union Wednesday night at 8PM EST on ESPN2. Houston may not play a pretty game, but they will do whatever it takes to win.