Mar 31, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; New England Revolution forward Cristian Penilla (70) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the second half against the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
HOUSTON – Coming off a season in which the Houston Dynamo lost only once at home, the Orange have now lost twice at BBVA Compass Stadium this season with the latest coming at the hands, or feet in this case, of the New England Revolution.
With two weeks off between games, the Dynamo expected to come out prepared to face the Revolution but Saturday’s 2-0 loss in front 17,156 Orange faithful left much to be desired.
Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera put the loss on individual mistakes that, “made us pay.”
“We need to work harder and that’s on me,” Cabrera said. “We need to work harder and better in how to avoid those mistakes. Because those mistakes are the ones that leave us exposed.”
The game started well enough for the Dynamo before those mistakes crept up. In the first 10 minutes, it looked like Houston would nab an early goal as the Dynamo were dangerous and got in the box but failed to get a shot on target.
New England was more than content to let Houston have possession of the ball and wait to hit on the counter, as has been their MO this season. And on cue, the Revolution did just that five minutes later.
In the 15th minute, the Dynamo’s first mistake was losing the ball against some Revolution pressure. And with the Dynamo pushed forward the Revolution sprinted the other way.
Revolution midfielder Wilfried Zahibo, along with four teammates, went full-steam towards goal with only DaMarcus Beasley and Dynamo ‘keeper Chris Seitz in front of them.
Zahibo picked out Cristian Penilla on the right wing who quickly one-timed a low cross towards the box which Teal Bunbury tapped in for the game’s opening goal. Seitz, who made his 100th start, will probably want that one back as the ball was just out of his reach before Bunbury got a hold of it.
Things went from bad to worse in the first half as Houston was caught on the counter yet again, only this time instead of giving up a goal the Dynamo lost a man.
In the 35th minute, Penilla found himself with plenty of space and the ball coming to him. Beasley was chasing behind him and caught up but put his hands on Penilla’s back, which brought the Ecuadorian to the ground just outside the box.
The ref went to his pocket and pulled out a red card. The first for Beasley in his MLS career. Cabrera notes that Beasley was put in a tough situation on that play.
The first half was an unusual one for the Dynamo at home.
“Sometimes when we’re here [at home] playing the first half we score two or three goals and we all feel happy and proud,” Cabrera said. “But today we couldn’t score and I’m gonna support my players. I know the players are sad. They’re upset.”
Despite being a man down, Houston nearly brought the game leveled in the second half but failed to capitalize on its opportunities. It was a point that Cabrera made sure to bring up in the post-game conference.
“Sadly, we couldn’t finish,” Cabrera said. “Something that we’ve been very good at home is scoring goals but we couldn’t score on two possibilities that we had on goal.”
One of those opportunities came to Dynamo forward Alberth Elis, who found himself one-on-one with Revolution ‘keeper Matt Turner, but sent his shot straight at Turner.
Dynamo forward Mauro Manotas said the team’s failure to score on its opportunities came down to mentality.
The game was put to bed in the 71st minute when Penilla, after some fancy stepovers, curled in a shot to put the Revolution up 2-0. New England got the win, but defender Jalil Anibaba, who played last season with the Dynamo, says the Orange kept them under pressure the whole 90 minutes.
“The difference, to be honest, was Penilla’s goal in the second half,” Anibaba said. “That gave us breathing room to kill the game off.”
New England, who only had one road win all last season, will savor this victory.
“It’s huge for us. It’s a good building block and a momentum builder for many reasons,” Anibaba said. “Obviously, now we know we can get results on the road and we can grind out games.”
The win put New England at 7 points with two wins, a loss, and a draw. Houston remains at four points with one victory, two losses, and a draw.
With two weeks until their next game, Houston will get back to the training field with plenty of time to prepare. If it pays off it remains to be seen.