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Three Things We Learned: Houston Dynamo 2, Portland Timbers 4

1. Positives to take despite first loss

No, the Dynamo did not walk away with any points from their first road test, but the first half showed what this team can become. The team wasn’t phased by one of the more hostile environments in MLS, and responded well to losing the lead early.

This was a shootout and, at least for most of this game, the Dynamo held their own. This team has come a long way from going on the road with very little to generate in attack. They went toe-to-toe with what looks like one of the better teams in the league this season. 

It is only the third match of the season. They were good in attack, but now they need to find that balance between offense and defense that head coach Wilmer Cabrera has emphasized he wants his team to have.

2. Everyone needs to be on the same page

The team looked like they ran out of gas in that second half. Ricardo Clark said it best in the lead up to this match, ‘“[We have] to make sure the defense is on the same page, especially with the midfielders. Our job is to help [the forwards] put their energy into going forward.”

The defense struggled in the second half against the likes of Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe and Fanendo Adi. They looked desperate on clearances and, if not for some great saves by Tyler Deric, the final score could have been by a larger margin. And it’s not solely on the defense, the offensive players have to drop down and help them as well.

The sum of all parts make the whole. The Dynamo aren’t going to win games if they’re working as three separate units.

3. This may not be a possession team, but they need to get better at possessing the ball

The Dynamo lost control of the match in the second half because they couldn't relieve the pressure in their defensive third of the field. They were playing at the speed that Portland wanted to and felt pressured, by the score and by the Timbers, to move up the field quicker.

Nobody is expecting this team to be a top possession team in MLS, but they do have to get better with the ball at their feet. Just like they rev up the speed on attack on the break, they need to be able to slow the game down and retake the tempo. 

With a week of rest coming up thanks to the international break, it’s time to regroup and push the reset button before the next game in the friendly confines of BBVA Compass Stadium, April 1 vs. the New York Red Bulls.