PORTLAND, Ore. – In the aftermath of seeing a two-goal lead evaporate at steamy Providence Park on Sunday, the Houston Dynamo vowed to make the gut-punch 3-2 loss to the Portland Timbers a launching pad for better days ahead.
“We have to try to learn from it,” interim coach Wade Barrett said. “Number one, I need to look at maybe how I manage the second half and see what I could have done better. So I’ll assess that in the next 24 hours,”
The Dynamo have struggled at times to hold leads. After dictating play for the first 45 minutes by winning most of the possession battles and taking away opportunities for Portland’s playmakers, Houston was unable – and perhaps unlucky – to quiet the Timbers’ second-half push.
Certainly the two penalty kicks given to the Timbers will be much discussed. But the play that breathed life into the Timbers happened in the 64th minute when two passes took the ball from Portland's 18 to the back of Houston’s net. Lucas Melano made a run to get behind the Dynamo defense and Diego Valeri played him in for the finish.
“[Melano] made a good run right on the line,” Dynamo center back David Horst said. “We’ve got to do better at killing that space behind us and a better job of communication. Hopefully we don’t let that happen again.”
Horst and Will Bruin, who scored his fourth goal of the season, each said the hot surface at Providence Park played into the game becoming more stretched in the second half as fatigue set in for both teams.
Horst felt hard done when referee Hilario Grajeda ruled that he played the ball with his hand in the 81st minute. But he said the Dynamo will use the hurt from Sunday’s loss to fuel themselves going ahead.
“We had trouble finishing the games at the start of the season at home,” Horst said. “We got over that hump and we learned how to finish them at home. Now when we get the lead on the road, we have to learn how to close games out on the road now.”
Barrett, in his fourth league match leading the Dynamo, refrained from commenting on the two late penalties that turned a possible Houston win into three points for the Timbers.
“I said a few press conferences ago that I wouldn’t criticize any [refereeing] decisions because it’s difficult to do,” Barrett said. “I’ve talked about to my team raising our standard of performance in everything that we do, and that means me sticking to my word.”
Houston’s first-half performance was certainly of a high standard. Andrew Wenger and Bruin scored and the Dynamo created several other chances while dictating the tempo of play.
Barrett said he wasn’t surprised by his team taking it to the defending champs like that early on.
“Nothing I didn’t know,” the coach said. “The guys were organized. They were tough to play against.”