Guatemala's Guastatoya footballer Carlos Gallardo (L) vies for the ball with US Houston Dynamo Alberth Elis during their Concacaf Champions League football match at the Doroteo Guamuch stadium in Guatemala City on Feb. 19, 2019. (Photo by JOHAN ORDONEZ / AFP)
The Houston Dynamo didn’t exactly coast to a Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 win over CD Guastatoya on Tuesday night — requiring second-half subs Alberth Elis and Mauro Manotas to fuel a 2-1 victory — but they advanced in the tournament, earning the right to play Tigres in what should be a highly-entertaining series next month. Here are three things we learned from the match — which also served as a final tuneup before the team’s home opener against Real Salt Lake this Saturday.
Defense still a work in progress
A mid-first-half miscue between two veteran defenders, DaMarcus Beasley and Maynor Figueroa, almost led to Guastatoya’s equalizer, one of several moments that gave Dynamo fans fits. That included the equalizer coming in the form of Aaron Navarro weaving through the Dynamo defense in the 72nd minute, chipping goalkeeper Joe Willis to secure the goal that looked to send the series to penalty kicks.
While the team has brought in reinforcements to improve on last year’s 58 goals allowed, it might take some time to them to get in sync.
Mauro Manotas could break 30-goal threshold
If his performance Tuesday night was any indication, the Colombian forward could build upon last season’s 25 goals in all competitions to reach a whole new level. Coming on with a little more than 20 minutes left in regulation, with the specter of a penalty shootout looming, Manotas scored on a perfect wing pass from Alberth Elis and on a free kick to put the match out of reach, adding to the “he can score any way from anywhere” lore building around him.
Though MLS watchers might overlook him given the other impressive forwards in a league, he looks poised for a season that will make him harder to discount.
Manotas isn’t only CCL player who can score quickly
While the Dynamo and Guastatoya were waiting out a 2 1/2-hour rain delay, Tigres began a four-goal-in-the-first-37-minutes barrage — including an Enner Valencia brace — to dispatch Saprissa and secure a date with Houston in the quarterfinals.
While it’s not going to be easy for the Dynamo to eliminate a tournament favorite, at least the two-leg series will come in the midst of a three-match Dynamo MLS homestand that includes matches against Montreal and Vancouver.