Houston Dynamo Upset Defending Champs With Counter Attacking and Stout Defense

02 July 2016: Houston Dynamo midfielder Alex (14) during the MLS soccer match between Philadelphia Union and Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photograph by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Houston Dynamo showed off a fresh counter attacking flair in their season opening win over the Seattle Sounders. They took down the defending champs by a 2-1 score thanks to a defense that took no prisoners and wouldn’t allow an inch of space. They coupled that with a speedy counter attack that caught the Sounders off guard on multiple occasions.

Houston Dynamo Upset Defending Champs With Counter Attacking and Stout Defense

New manager Wilmer Cabrera entered this tough opener with a plan and his team executed it to near perfection. A mix of new talent and old faces contributed to an overall team win from the Dynamo. The front three of a possibly revived Cubo Torres and fresh wingers Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto led the charge. It was DaMarcus Beasley keeping his game going along with three newbies in the back four that kept the Sounders trapped outside of the penalty area for most of the match.

First Half of Houston Quickness

The Dynamo scored a pair of goals on the backs of two new additions and one player who played like one. Their three man forward line of Alberth Elis, Romell Quioto, and Cubo Torres provided plenty of excitement for a Houston team that was rather dull last season. Torres provided the opening goal in the 20th minute with a perfectly curling free kick around the Seattle wall and past a helpless Stefan Frei.

Quioto unleashed a golazo in the 42nd minute to double the lead. A turnover in midfield by a seemingly out of form Clint Dempsey allowed Quioto to run with the ball to the top of the penalty area. He then launched a perfectly placed curling shot that tucked inside the far post after giving Frei no chance to make a save.

Elis may not have scored a goal, but he was all over the pitch. The right winger spent the entire first half making Joevin Jones and Chard Marshall looking like amateurs.

Houston’s overall strategy focused primarily on defending the feared Seattle attack. They frequently played with nine men behind the ball and left Seattle helpless as far as getting into the penalty area. The Sounders only took two first half shots and one was from well outside the area. The defense worked so well, Seattle could only complete a few passes inside the penalty area, and they were all on the very edge.

Seattle Finds a Second Half Opening

The Sounders managed to unlock the Dynamo defense early in the second half. A positioning mistake by Elis allowed Clint Dempsey to bang home a rebound thanks to being in the right place at the right time. The goal came as a result of more touches in the penalty area, which turned into a theme for the second half. The Seattle shot total did climb to 14 by the end of the game, but there were few really good looks at goal.

The best of those few came in the 72nd minute. Nicolas Lodeiro looked to be through on goal from the left side of the box, but blasted his shot into the side netting. Their general lack of creativity when faced with a stout, defense first side meant that there were very few quality chances to speak of.

It was that defense first mentality that won it for Houston in the end. Nine men defending their own box turned into ten for the final fifteen minutes. This further clogged the penalty area and didn’t allow the Sounders to create anything in the way of threatening chances They were forced to take long shots with little hope of going in since touches inside the 18 were few and far between.

Houston’s Impressive Counter Game

The Dynamo won this match thanks to a counter attacking strategy that produced a whopping 15 first half shots despite holding little more than a third of possession. It was the quickness of Quioto and Elis combined with the instincts of Cubo Torres up front that allowed them to do so. Those three combined for 10 of those 15 first half attempts.

The front three did not do it alone, however. Alex had a pair of attempts from the left midfield spot to go along with an impressive passing success rate. Eric Alexander was also an impressive fulcrum in the middle of the park. He was 34 for 37 passing on the night to help set up the speedy forwards.

With a bleak outlook to their season, they can prove the pundits wrong rather quickly if they can keep their counter attacking success going.

As for the Sounders, they will have to come up with a little more creativity on the fly when taking on other sides with a defend first, counter attack later strategy. They were unable to come up with a scheme to get through Houston despite holding 64% of the ball. The attacking talents of Dempsey, Lodeiro, and a conspicuously absent Jordan Morris were no use. I won’t call it an MLS Cup hangover yet, but the first game of the season certainly shows signs of it.


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