Houston needed to play a game without mistakes but couldn’t pull it off, letting in two goals that all but wrap up the CCL quarterfinal series
Prior to Tuesday’s Concacaf Champions League match against Tigres, Houston Dynamo manager Wilmer Cabrera said his team had to play a perfect game to have any chance in the first leg. Unfortunately for him, he was right.
The Dynamo put in a strong effort. They played well. They may have been the better team for the majority of the match. But they weren’t perfect, and their mistakes were punished as Tigres earned a 2-0 advantage to take home.
The result functionally ends the series, though Tigres manager Tuca Ferretti disagreed.
“I think it’s a great team. Today, we got an advantage, but we shouldn’t think it’s definitive. We should be humble, respectful to play well in the second leg,” Ferretti said in his post-match news conference. “We have respect for the Dynamo and playing there, we’re going to play as though it’s 0-0 and look to score the goals that give us the result.”
That’s what Ferretti has to say as a manager. The fact is Tigres are nearly unbeatable at El Volcan, and the Dynamo couldn’t convert their chances in BBVA Compass Stadium – not that it felt much like home with more than half of the 16,890 wearing yellow and blue and cheering on the Liga MX leaders.
It’s not a shock that a team starting a pair of defenders over 35 and just a game into their league season couldn’t hang on late, especially with the Dynamo already short a defender because of Aljaz Struna’s injury. That expectation doesn’t make the reality of the mistakes any easier to take, though.
“We got punished at the end twice, with good quality, but that cost us the game,” Cabrera said. “I think it’s a very good learning game for us because it is important to understand that we were working well, we were running, we were moving but at the end when you have the ball you have to put in the quality.”
The first goal started from a long pass out of the back that came to an unmarked Luis “Chaka” Rodriguez. He steamed down the right side of the attack freely and found forward Enner Valencia. The Ecuador international played a one-two with Julian Quinones, narrowly beating goalkeeper Joe Willis to put the first touch on the ball and open the scoring in the 78th minute.
The Dynamo reacted poorly to conceding, getting caught with too many men upfield just three minutes later. Valencia found Vargas with only one man in his vicinity and the Colombian put in a belter from outside the box.
The MLS team will rue the opportunities it missed. It had a flurry of chances before the end of the first half, taking advantage of some possession that neither team really looked to want for the first 40 minutes. Each team plays well on the counter-attack and while Tuesday was no exception, there were few big chances on the break for either side.
Now Cabrera will be tempted to turn his attention to the MLS season, where not as many mistakes are punished and even a defeat is just a bump in the road during a 34-match season. With improvement and a bit of luck, the Dynamo may find themselves back in this tournament next season, working once again to put together a perfect game.