HOUSTON — Houston Dynamo forward Mauro Manotas scored a brace — breaking a club record along the way — to help the Orange snap a 10-game winless streak and beat the Portland Timbers, 4-1, Saturday night at BBVA Compass Stadium.
The three points are a welcomed sight for Houston (8-13-7, 31 points), which has struggled to keep pace in the Western Conference standings.
Dynamo coach Wilmer Cabrera, who was celebrating his 51st birthday, said his side used the previous two weeks off to reset.
“The players made a commitment to work harder and to push. They didn’t promise that we were going to win every game but we’re going to battle 100 percent with our effort to give everything and leave everything on the field,” Cabrera said. “And today, we sealed the deal on the field.”
For Manotas, the brace gives him 14 goals on the season, tying him for the club record set last year by Erick ‘Cubo’ Torres. It also gives him 18 goals across all competitions, the most of any Dynamo in club history. The 23-year-old surpassed Will Bruin, who netted 16 in 2012.
“First and foremost, all glory to God. Since the start of the year, the record was an objective of mine. I asked God for his help to break the record,” Manotas said. “There is a saying that goes, ‘God gives more than you ask.’ By asking with faith, I have received the blessing to break two records this year. This is something special to me.”
The Dynamo pulled off the win, but did themselves no favors in the first 10 minutes of the game as they handed Portland (12-8-8, 44 points) a 1-0 lead.
Timbers right back Alvas Powell got the ball on the right wing. He took one touch before crossing the ball into the box. Dynamo defender Alejandro Fuenmayor managed to put out a leg to deflect it, but the ball bounced high and over the outstretched hands of Dynamo ‘keeper Joe Willis.
The own goal no doubt had the Dynamo — and the announced crowd of 15,256 — thinking, “Here we go again.”
“There’s an old saying that if you didn’t have bad luck, you’d have no luck at all,” Willis said. “Sometimes it kind of feels like that, but we were able to react well and we got after them after that.”
The Dynamo ended up getting some luck of their own and it leveled the game.
Dynamo forward Alberth Elis, who broke his nine-game scoring drought earlier this month, earned a free kick 35 yards from goal. Dynamo midfielder Tomas Martinez stepped up and lofted a ball towards the back post.
The unmarked Honduran international rose up to meet the ball and headed toward goal. The ball hit the right post before settling into the back of the net.
And the Dynamo weren’t done.
Perhaps the goal awoke something in them because La Naranja got on the front foot and doubled the lead seven minutes later.
Willis rolled the ball towards Martinez, who took two touches before springing Elis on the right wing. Elis dribbled towards the end line and sent a low cross across the face of goal where Manotas tapped it in for the Dynamo’s second goal.
Sep 15, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Portland Timbers midfielder Sebastian Blanco (10) controls the ball against Houston Dynamo midfielder Boniek Garcia (27) during the first half at BBVA Compass Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
But the Timbers wouldn’t finish the first half without some fireworks of their own.
In the 44th minute, Diego Valeri got the ball on the right wing and whipped in a low cross towards the back post, where Timbers midfielder Diego Chara easily tapped it into the back of the net to level.
However, after Video Review, Valeri was ruled offside when he played the ball.
The second half saw the much-heralded return of Dynamo midfielder Juan David Cabezas. After a stellar first season in Major League Soccer, the Colombian midfielder picked up an injury 15 minutes into the 2018 season. The injury sidelined him until May 25, when he played 25 minutes. The 45 minutes he played Saturday night are his most this season and he showed flashes and skills that garnered him the team MVP award last season.
“He was rusty a little,” Cabrera said. “But he showed, in winning the ball, he showed his presence on the field, and the team reacted well and we all felt comfortable having him on the field.”
While Cabezas settled into the game, the Dynamo picked up where they left off in the first half.
Five minutes into the second half, Manotas found himself with a golden opportunity to extend the lead. Boniek Garcia launched a ball forward to Elis, who headed down toward Manotas. The Colombian striker found himself one-v-one with Timbers keeper Steve Clark with two Timbers defenders trailing behind him, but his effort sailed high and over the bar.
Manotas, however, atoned for the miss in spectacular fashion in the 71st minute.
Elis, who terrorized the Timbers on the right wing, sent a cross that Clark parried away. But the ball fell to Manotas, who picked it out of the air and volleyed it to the back of the net.
Houston added a fourth goal in the 81st minute via Fuenmayor. Martinez swung a free kick from the left corner that Manotas headed toward the back post, where Fuenmayor jumped on the loose ball and nutmegged Clark with a one-time shot.
The win, aside from the three points, served as a birthday gift to Cabrera.
“The best gift to see, not just winning, but to see your players going on the field and giving 100 percent — that’s the best gift that we can have,” Cabrera said. “And that’s something that I’m proud of. We’ve been going through a lot of difficulties, no doubt about it, but this team, I believe in this team. I believe in the players. And today they showed that they believe in themselves.”