Three Things We Learned: Houston Dynamo 3, North Carolina FC 2 (AET)


The Houston Dynamo initiated their 2017 U.S. Open Cup campaign with a 3-2 extra time win over North Carolina FC in the fourth round of the competition. A game-winning goal in the 109th minute by Memo Rodriguez was the difference maker.

Here are three things we learned from the Dynamo’s trip to Cary, NC:

1. The Dynamo can win on the road

It does not count toward their MLS record (0-6-1 away) but the win on Wednesday night marks the team’s first official away win in 2017. It’s an important win as it clears another hurdle for the team this year and it comes in the midst of a 5,000-plus mile trip.

As Sam Stejskal wrote for, the win is even sweeter for head coach Wilmer Cabrera as it came at the feet of an alternate squad. Now, Cabrera and the usual starters can focus fully on following up this win in league play against the LA Galaxy on fresh legs.

“It gives us the possibility to say that we can win, that we’re allowed to win, we can win if we perform this way,” said Cabrera in his postmatch presser. Now it’s time to build on this win in front of a national audience on Saturday night.

2. Youth prevails, with a dab of experience

Cabrera bet heavily on youth in this match and it paid off, especially considering this match went 120 minutes. Seven players were called up from Rio Grande Valley FC and six players made their season debuts for the Dynamo: José Escalante, Charlie Ward, Eric Bird, Ruben Luna, Taylor Hunter and Jorginho James.

The headline of the night was taken by 21-year-old homegrown player Memo Rodriguez who scored his first goal in a Dynamo jersey. Rodriguez also made his first start in only his fourth appearance this season.

Cabrera really wasn’t kidding when he reiterated in preseason that everyone would have an opportunity and see minutes with the team. Without the veteran support of Vicente Sánchez, Andrew Wenger, Dylan Remick and Joe Willis, however, this might’ve not been a victory.

3. Joe Willis hasn’t given up on the starting job

Willis picked up his fifth win in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play for the Dynamo and made his seventh start for the club in the competition, passing Tally Hall for first place in the Dynamo record book. ‘Big Joe’ made some big saves, including two consecutive in the first extra time period to keep the game level and allow Rodriguez to score the game-winner just minutes later.

Willis hasn’t given up on regaining the number one keeper job, especially if Cabrera hasn’t named a permanent starter. The goalkeeper’s performance early in the season was enough to earn him a nomination to the 2017 MLS All-Star ballot.

Going forward, Willis knows minutes may be harder to come by and the only way to stay in the conversation is to impress in the matches he gets the call to start in. Regardless of what happens, the Dynamo’s Open Cup hopes are in good hands with Willis in goal.