Mar 3, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Dynamo defender Philippe Senderos (4) and Atlanta United midfielder Miguel Almiron (10) battle for the ball during the second half at BBVA Compass Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
HOUSTON – The hype entering Saturday’s 2018 Major League Soccer season opener between the Houston Dynamo and Atlanta United put the onus on the match being a high-scoring affair.
And in front of an announced crowd of 20,377, the Dynamo didn’t disappoint. The same can’t be said of Atlanta United, whose much talked about and praised attacking prowess left much to be desired.
While Atlanta enjoyed much of the possession — not unlike last season when Houston was glad to concede possession to its opponents — the Dynamo were lethal when they did have the ball.
The Orange netted four goals in the first half, the fourth time Houston has done so in a match since 2016, en route to a 4-0 victory to kick off the season much the same way they started a year ago.
“It was a very good first half. We were very clinical in our finishing and we were able to put the game away,” head coach Wilmer Cabrera said. “We have to continue pushing forward because this is the first game of the season. We just played one game. It’s good to get the three points and it’s good to score goals for the forwards.”
And the Dynamo wasted no time in putting its stamp on the game and putting the game away.
Four minutes in, Alberth Elis used his pace and skill to get around Atlanta defender Leandro González-Pirez to get into the penalty box. He drew Atlanta ‘keeper Brad Guzan out which left the net wide open. Elis sent a low-cross in that Andrew Wenger connected with for the game’s first goal.
“When Alberth [Elis] gets the ball in space you’ve got to find yourself in the box somewhere,” Wenger said on his goal. “He’s [Elis] gonna find a pass, and it all worked out quite well.”
It’s the third time Wenger scores in a season opener. He’s done it twice with Houston and once with the Montreal Impact. Houston took the reigns of the game in a five-minute span between the 22nd and 27th minute.
In that span, Philippe Senderos gave the host’s a 2-0 lead off a corner kick. The third came when Houston’s high-pressure led to an Atlanta turnover on their side of the field, which led to Mauro Manotas nabbing his first of the season.
Houston would add a fourth in first-half injury time as new Dynamo, Darwin Cerén, got a hold of a loose ball in the box. Cerén started the game on the bench but was inserted in the 15th minute replacing the injured Juan David Cabezas, who exited the match with a left quadricep injury.
“We came out strong. Our mentality from the very beginning was to put them under pressure,” Dynamo ‘keeper Chris Seitz said. “And credit to our guys we got a couple turnovers in the back and really made them paid. And it opened up the game for us.”
Atlanta never got its footing in the first half and the second half didn’t fare better. Things looked promising for Atlanta United early in the second half after being awarded a penalty in the 48th minute. Miguel Almirón stepped up to shoot, but his effort hit the post.
Five Stripes head coach Atlanta United Tata Martino said his sides overall defending is to blame.
“A big part of soccer is defending and I think it cost us a lot recover the ball. It cost us a lot in 1v1 defending,” Martino said. “On the offensive side of things we probably created as many scoring opportunities as Houston, but on the defensive side, things just weren’t working. And I mean the whole team.”
Atlanta did in generate 13 shots but only 2 were on target.
Houston’s jumps to a 1-0-0 record while Atlanta starts their second season in MLS with a loss and sit at 0-1-0. Better still for Houston is the win at BBVA Compass Stadium, which last season proved to be a fortress for the Orange where they went 12-1-4.
This season, Cabrera wants that trend to continue.
“Despite all the things that have happened we have been able to continue showing that the Houston Dynamo, in Houston, is going to be dangerous,” Cabrera said. “That’s for sure.”