Monday, March 4, 2013

Houston, You are a Problem

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This past Saturday the MLS started up their regular season with a slate of games, one of which was a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference Finals when DC United traveled to Houston to play the Dynamo.

DC United has never won in Houston versus the Dynamo and that is a streak that will have to continue after they lost a heated game with a 2-0 final in the Dynamo's favor after an own goal from DC's James Riley and a goal to put the game away from Houston's Ricardo Clark.

Many DC fans were hoping that this would be the game that United could break that long awaited losing streak in Houston and after losing many fans wonder, what went wrong?

First off, I'm not one to say it would've been a different story if team X had player Y, but I'm going to here. If United had been playing with their star foward Dwayne De Rosario (suspended two games after on field fight during the pre-season) then this game may have been much different. De Rosario is rare find in the MLS and has the ability to not only create shots for himself, but for others as well and perhaps could have given Chris Pontius and others a decent shot at putting the ball in the back of the net.

Now, onto things that could have been controlled and perhaps even fixed during the game...

DC's offensive game was absent for the most part and Pontius was a one man show. This is something that could have been effected with De Rosario playing but we'll focus on the game day roster. To Pontius' credit he was doing absolutely everything he could to put one in the goal for DC, but to his fault, he sometimes tried to do to much. One for example was when he made a run with a teammate on each side of him against just two defenders. Instead of taking advantage of the three on two opportunity by laying it off to one of his teammates and creating a shot on goal chance we saw Pontius keep the ball and lose possession to one of Houston's defenders.

Hopefully once the opening game rust shakes off and De Rosario returns, Pontius and the rest of the offense won't run into this problem. In addition to that, we have to give the Dynamo credit for once again playing top of the line defense against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. Also, if DC wants to be successful again this year then guys like John Thorrington and Lionard Pajoy need take more advantage of their playing time and be more involved in the offense. All I saw from the two of them was a lack of effort. As a last thought for the offensive side, I liked how Perry Kitchen was starting to get involved. Late in the match with he ran up the field with a decent long-shot at goal and instead of passing it off he let himself have one. It sailed a few feet over the bar, but that type of offensive aggressiveness can be just what DC needs out of the young mid-fielder.

My only issue with the coaching during DC's opening game was some of the substitutions that Ben Olsen made. Two out of the three subs that were made put two players making their MLS debut's into the game. This substitution was puzzling to me especially when United was down one-nil (due to James Riley's own goal) at the time of the substitution for Kyle Porter. Why substitute in Porter (who was making his MLS debut) when Olsen had a guy like Carlos Ruiz on the bench? Ruiz may not have scored, but someone who has ability to score goals like him (9th all time on MLS scoring list, 2002 MVP) he certainly would've increased United's chances to even this match up.

Porter entered the game and minutes later Ricardo Clark put the dagger in and no goals were scored by DC United.

Like I said before, we have to give credit where it is due. The loss for DC wasn't just because they played bad or because they were without a certain player or didn't make a certain substitution. It was because the Houston Dynamo continue to show that they are a team to be reckoned with as the reigning Eastern Conference champs, and they can force their dominance on almost anyone in that stadium which possesses one of the best home-field advantages in the MLS. The Houston Dynamo proved once again to be a big problem for DC United. They will rematch for the regular season finale at RFK Stadium in DC.

As for DC, they'll look to rebound this week when they host Real Salt Lake in the home opener at RFK Stadium. This early in the season, it's hard to declare games as "must wins" but it would be nice to see United pick up an easy win to prove that they can do it without star Dwayne De Rosario, as they did for much of the last half of last year's season. De Rosario will make his return from his suspension the following week when United travels north to face their rival, the New York Red Bulls.

The Dynamo will play their next match tomorrow night when they host Santos Laguna in Champions League play.

As for the MLS, it was a great start to the regular season, and hopefully for soccer fans everywhere the MLS can have another great season and continue it's climb in popularity.

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