Second-half shutdown: It slips away from Houston Dynamo in loss at Portland Timbers
HOUSTON – After 45 minutes the Houston Dynamo looked to have a handle on Saturday's road match against the Portland Timbers. They’d created a couple of chances and kept Portland’s possession from turning into production.
Things changed for the worse in the second half as the Dynamo were undone. The Timbers took control while the Dynamo’s trademark ability to apply pressure and break up play failed to make an impact.
“I think all of us we were much tighter in the first half, winning some tackles and second balls and that got away from us a little bit in the second half,” Brad Davis told MLSsoccer.com. “That bite can go a long way on the road and on a tight compact field like this if you can break that first line of pressure you find some space.”
Forward Ryan Johnson, whose second half partnership with Darlington Nagbe helped change the game in Portland’s favor, found that space in the second half and did the damage on the scoreboard in notching both of Portland’s goals.
His first came on a pinpoint cross from Diego Chara, who was a menace to Houston in the second half in midfield. Johnson hit a low shot that goalkeeper Tally Hall could not handle in the 55th minute for the 1-0 lead, then struck again on a breakaway in 73rd minute for the 2-0 final.
“I didn’t see them dominating until they got their first goal and we started chasing the game a little bit and that opened things up,” head coach Dominic Kinnear told MLSsoccer.com. “I thought in the first half we were fine. They had one chance on goal and I thought we were playing some pretty good stuff and created some chances. In the second half that wasn’t the case.”
The goals were the clincher, but the second half battle was lost for Houston in the midfield. Portland was first to the ball and were able to make good passes to ignite their attack and bypass Houston’s pressure.
That play stifled any attempt by the Dynamo to relieve Portland’s pressure and get momentum going in their direction.
“When you’re playing on the road you have to make sure you’re challenging for everything,” Davis explained. “They had guys stepping up and they were doing a good job. We weren’t winning those tackles in midfield and they were breaking pressure.”
Without that bite the Dynamo struggled to gain traction as the match unraveled and ultimately Houston succumbed as the Timbers handed Houston their second road defeat of the season.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.