Houston Dynamo hold off Vancouver Whitecaps in 2-1 win

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A pair of winless MLS teams on a sunny Texas afternoon. What else would you want to hear? Saturday saw the Vancouver Whitecaps travel down to Houston to take on the Dynamo at PNC Stadium. The hosts were yet to score coming into this one, between a 0-0 draw vs Real Salt Lake and a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Sporting Kansas City. Meanwhile the Whitecaps also were yet to open their goal account this season, dropping a 4-0 dud on opening day in Columbus, before a 0-0 home draw against NYCFC. Vancouver face a difficult start to their season, with numerous difficult games. So there was pressure on Vanni Sartini to pick up a result against a dormant Houston squad.

Sartini sent out his third different formation in three games to start this one off. Highlighted by Pedro Vite getting his first MLS start next Ryan Gauld, who both sat just behind Lucas Cavallini at striker. The back three of Florian Jungwith, Ranko Veselinovic and Tristan Blackmon played ahead of Thomas Hasal in net. To complete the 11, Christian Dajome and Cristián Gutiérrez played on the flanks, with Leo Owusu and ever-reliable Russell Teibert in the middle. Vancouver were without Brian White again due to a lingering calf problem.

For Paulo Nagamura, it was a similar 4-3-3 compared to last weekend’s 1-0 defeat. Steve Clark played behind a back four of Adam Lunqvist, Daniel Steres, Josh Dorsey and former Whitecap Tim Parker. The midfield trio consisted of Adalberto Carrasquilla, Matias Vera and Darwin Quintero. Rounding out the squad, Fafa Picault, Sebastian Ferreira and Corey Baird started up front. Nagamura was still searching for his first win as an MLS manager heading into this one.

First half

It took no more than 14 minutes, but it would be Vancouver to break the deadlock. A set of well worked passes up the right side found Dajome on the right wing. An excellent cross into the box met Lucas Cavallini, who picked it out of the air and volleyed home the game’s opener. It had come off the back of some end to end play by both sides, but no real scoring chances until “El Tanque” grabbed Vancouver’s first of 2022. Just minutes later, Vite would be substituted due to concussion protocols, making way for Javain Brown.

Before the 33rd minute mark however, Houston would draw level. A diagonal ball found Corey Baird through on goal, who was quickly closed down by Hasal. Baird would immediately square the ball to Darwin Quintero who had a wide open net to bury home the equalizer. Houston had a couple of chances following the Whitecaps first goal to draw level, but it would be Quintero to finally get rid of Houston’s goose egg.

One or two more half chances from both sides saw out the rest of the opening 45, but not much significant to write home about. Florian Jungwirth had a great showing defensively, with 3 tackles, a pair of interceptions and blocked shots, and lead Vancouver in touches. Quintero also had a solid showing on top of his goal from the first half, being the spark plug that Houston needed offensively at times.

Second half

Quintero kept up his hot form early in the second, giving Houston it’s second goal of the afternoon. Ferreira lost possession of the ball at the top of the Vancouver box on the fast break. The ball fell kindly to the right foot of Quintero, who thumped home his second of the game from outside the box. Having almost two thirds of the game’s possession, as well as more chances, Houston took a well earned lead for the first time this season.

A flurry of chances for Vancouver in front of Steve Clark’s goal showed that Vancouver weren’t going to take this result lying down. A few corners, crosses, and half chances showed the team pushing for an equalizer. Both sides ended up rattling the woodwork in the final 15 minutes or so, however it wouldn’t be enough to add to the scoresheet as Houston saw off the game as 2-1 winners.

Last word

Houston got their foot in the door of the win column, improving their record to 1-1-1 through the first three games. An improved showing across all fronts is a step in the right direction for Nagamura, who collected his first win as an MLS head coach. However it won’t be any easier next week as they welcome the Colorado Rapids to PNC Stadium on Saturday.

As for Vancouver, they fall to 0-2-1 to kick off their 2022 campaign. A third different formation used, still no Brian White, it has to get better for Vancouver. By next week? That may be pushing it. The team travels to LA to face LAFC. Or maybe more appropriately put, try to stop Max Crepeau and Marc Dos Santos from beating their former team. A difficult opening to the year continues for Vancouver, who hope to get back to winning ways on Sunday night.