Robertson Stadium was sporting a sea of “Forever Orange” on Houston Dynamo Day. Supporter groups, season ticket holders, and newcomers were all part of 18,000+ strong fans in attendance for the 2010 home opener versus the 2009 MLS Cup Champion Real Salt Lake.
Fans were anxiously waiting this date for months; the Dynamo could not wait to start at home, a field where they lose rarely. Although the night started festive, there was little time to celebrate. The Dynamo began the season the previous week at FC Dallas and left Frisco with a 1-1 tie in the Texan Derby.
After game day opening celebrations concluded, the 22 men on John O’ Quinn field starting things off to a fast tempo. Fans were chanting “Let’s Go Dynamo!” as the Orange Crush was in a battle of possession for most part of the first half.
That is, until the 17th minute when RSL’s Argentinean striker Javier Morales took advantage of a defensive mishap by the home team and shot one with ease past Pat Onstad into the right corner of the net to put the defending Champions in the lead 1-0.
Looking carefully at the play: Alvaro Saborio receives the pass from the wing, leans against Ryan Cochrane (who immediately falls to indicate a foul), turns and passes the ball to Beckerman, who sends it to a Javier Morales running toward goal and only the keeper to beat.
It’s hard to tell whether Cochrane tried to use the elbow by Saborio and act out the foul to see if the referee would follow or if he truly fell due to the hit. Nonetheless the foul is not called and this mishap leads to Mulrooney, who is playing defensive midfielder, to run back to cover Cochrane’s spot and in doing so looses focus of Morales.
Now Boswell is left chasing Morales and Onstad who looked like a deer in headlights is forced to act one-on-one and all Morales has to do is shoot around the Canadian goalkeeper. It’s not surprising with RSL’s explosive offense that a shutout might have been a bit too much to ask for. The reason why Robertson Stadium fell under an immediate spell of silence was due more to the ease of the goal rather than the act of scoring.
The concern of losing Stuart Holden (6 goals, 4 assists) and Ricardo Clark (1 goal, 1 assist) was due to their vital roles and continuity in midfield. Now that both left overseas during the offseason, fans understand the team is not going to function as effectively right away and it will take time for the players to adapt.
The coaching staff knows this is a weakness successful teams like RSL would be eager to exploit. It didn’t take too long for Jason Kreis’ side to take advantage. The important detail in this game is how the team would react. The Dynamo held their composure, took care of the ball, and didn’t allow a goal for the rest of the game. However, Dynamo fans would not be relieved before the end of the night.
In the 27th minute, Brian Ching pulled a hamstring on a play where he was fighting for a ball that ended up going out of bounds. The feeling of uneasiness was felt throughout the stadium with the image of Ching immediately calling for the medical staff; simultaneously Luis Landin quickly warms up and prepares to be subbed in.
Ching is the Dynamo’s all-time top goal scorer and proven striker, and one of Bob Bradley’s options up top for the USA’s men’s World Cup squad that will play in South Africa this summer. On top of that, he is the team captain; former captain Wade Barrett recently retired and is now an assistant coach to Dominic Kinnear. A comeback may seem bleak at this point as Brian Ching is helped off the field and carried into the locker room area.
The Houston Dynamo although a young franchise are an experienced one; they have roster depth and are a team that in any situation demonstrates resiliency. The team fights on and eventually into the second half causes RSL to lose its head. RSL defender Jamison Olave crosses feet with Geoff Cameron inside the box; the referee calls the foul and awards the penalty to the relief of Dynamo fans.
Brad Davis steps up to the penalty marker against a goalkeeper that won the MLS Cup in a penalty shootout in Nick Rimando. Davis shoots it with force down the middle as Rimando dives to the left and scores the first goal in the 52nd minute for the Orange Crush.
Olave does not get carded and a few plays later fouls Luis Landin inside the box to hand over a second penalty kick, this time receiving a yellow card. Brad Davis steps up once again, this time shoots to the right and converts to put Houston in the lead 2-1 in the 55th minute.
RSL would later miss the tying goal when Espindola shoots a ball that rebounds off the pole. Espindola also got himself a yellow card, which should’ve been a red card, late in the game when he lost a footrace with Boswell and manhandled him to the ground into the southwest corner of the field.
One can argue this is a game the defending MLS Champions lost because of their mistakes in the second half rather than one the Dynamo won. Of course it takes someone who takes advantage of the given opportunities to win the game as Brad Davis did. I
t’s neither the prettiest win nor the most encouraging but three points are extremely important especially in a competitive Western Conference. Nonetheless, the Dynamo has quite a bit of questions to answer throughout the 2010 season.
Landin has improved from the previous season but still needs to produce results on the field for his loan to Dynamo to be considered a success. The Ching injury, although heartbreaking to Dynamo fans, gives Landin the opportunity to increase his playing time and ultimately prove his effectiveness as a forward.
A young Landin shows promise which instills hope into Dynamo fans but Houston won’t be so patient if the team begins to lose. Cam Weaver remains an active option as well and while he is not the best replacement for Ching, Weaver has proven he can score.
Dominic Oduro, a questionable selection to be part of the team, continues to fail miserably in his accuracy to put the ball into the net despite numerous opportunities. Kinnear favors Oduro because of his speed but if Oduro doesn’t improve fast the only thing his speed will be good for will be for running out of town. Let’s not forget Kinnear has an open roster spot and is known for making trades and roster moves as the season progresses.
For many, this matchup was the MLS Cup Final that should’ve happened in Seattle last November. The Houston Dynamo were eliminated by the Los Angeles Galaxy in overtime of a Western Conference Championship game that saw two power failures at The Home Depot Center. Coincidentally, the next game for the Dynamo will be versus the LA Galaxy in what is being advertised as “Lights Out L.A. Rematch.”
Los Angeles is expected to be a contender once again for the MLS Cup this season. Last season both teams were tied in points but LA won the tie-breaker to decide home field advantage due to head-to-head results despite the Dynamo having a higher goal differential.
Landon Donovan and Co. will prove to be a difficult task, especially without a proven goal scorer; However, La Naranja has to take advantage of home field and use the crowd to their advantage. The Houston Dynamo have outscored LA Galaxy 6-4 at Robertson Stadium in six all-time meetings.