Armchair Analyst: Houston Dynamo ride the counter to a US Open Cup title

My colleague Bobby Warshaw and I watched Houston's pretty dominant 3-0 win over the Union in the U.S. Open Cup final together. It was a good night to wear Orange.

Bobby Warshaw (BW): We’ve just been driving the Union bus too hard. I’ll take the blame for this one. I’ve been taking the turns too tight and too fast and the wheels were bound to come off at some point.

Matthew Doyle (MD): I think you're right to drive the Union bus -- they're a good team. But the Dynamo at home on short rest... that's a bad matchup. And the right team won.

And more important: The team we both predicted would win actually won. Clearly we're geniuses.

BW: Yeah, the game went pretty much to basic logic. Philly played their game, had most of the ball, and got a few looks. But Houston capitalized on a couple of mistakes and got better looks, and then finished them.

MD: And four games in 10 days. I'm absolutely using that as an excuse for the Union by the way – no team should ever again move an early-season game to accommodate another's Concacaf Champions League schedule. Philly did that for Seattle, and Houston didn't for Toronto, and who do you think regrets that decision tonight?

BW: I actually don’t think that matters as much as you. I don’t think this game came down to energy or rest. It came down to basic soccer theory. One team tried to possess and one team tried to counter. Whenever that happens, if the passing team isn’t sharp, the counterattacking team has the advantage. The passing team can play well, but the margins on passing are so much smaller than the margins on countering. I suspect Philly walked into the locker room feeling okay about how they played. They played well, just not well enough against a lethal open-field Houston team.

MD: Fair enough. I'll agree with the baseline principle that defending and playing on the counter allows for greater margins, provided you can defend inside the 18. And the Dynamo absolutely did that, and – in large part – absolutely deserved to win because of it.

I will also add another theory, or maybe an axiom: In title games, the team with the best player wins. And in this one Houston had the two best players in Mauro Manotas and Alberth Elis. If you look at the first two goals both were a case of "can you beat your man?" and in both instances the answer for Houston was "yes."

BW: Yeah, I’m okay with that idea. The Dynamo are a team built around the three strikers; when they play well, they are very, very good. The problem is their inconsistency. You’ve correctly attributed those inconsistencies to the absence of Juan David Cabezas (the sturdiness of a solid defensive mid affords attackers more freedom and confidence). But Cabezas was back tonight and the attacking trio played to their potential.

We watched the game with a few Dynamo fans tonight, and they all feel this puts a positive light on their season.

MD: It definitely does, and it gives them an identity they should bear hug throughout the next 18 months. They’re going to be in the CCL now, which is great for the club. And they can win, because they’re a brutal, ruthless bunch on the counterattack – embrace that. And embrace the deep backline, and Cabezas as the destroyer, and everything else that’s worked for the last 24ish months.

There’s a lot of good pieces there and they’re worthy champions. Just because it didn’t work out in the regular season doesn’t mean it won’t work out long term.

BW: I’m really excited to see this Houston team in CCL. I’ve been a Philly truther all year, but Houston are more suited to CCL. As you said, when they commit to being a counter attacking team, they are really dangerous. Elis and Quioto flying down the wings after Tigres or Club América get stretched... yes please.

MD: Let's hope we get to see it. Also, lest we forget: 

Congratulations to DaMarcus Beasley, and we look forward to him winning this trophy again in 2118.

And congratulations as well to the entire Dynamo organization. Winning a trophy – any trophy – is no joke, and it's impressive as hell to do it with the league's smallest budget. Wilmer Cabrera, et al. should be proud.

Now please bottle this gameplan and have it ready to go in February. Liga MX awaits...

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