The Houston Dynamo hosted the New England Revolution on Sunday night in a match that was played for nothing but pride. Both teams are out of the 2010 playoffs, the Dynamo are out for the first time in franchise history and New England out for the first time since the early part of this decade, but the play on the field was filled with the intensity and physicality that both teams are known for.
The game was a back and forth affair with both teams fighting hard to control the match and possession. The field at Robertson Stadium played fast and was very hard after Cougar football games and soccer games earlier this month took their toll on the grass.
For Houston there were a big stories related to the line-up. Cam Weaver started in Brian Ching's place, who was out with a knee injury picked up last weekend against the Union, and was paired with Dominic Oduro, who has found a good streak of form late in the season. The midfield was a bit more predictable with Brad Davis, Geoff Cameron, Lovel Palmer and Corey Ashe all getting the start. Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear decided to keep a defense that has played relatively well over the last few weeks and gave Richard Mulrooney, Adrian Serioux, Ryan Cochrane and Andrew Hainault the start. Cochrane and Serioux have not been consistent starters at all this season, and it is believed that Kinnear is giving them playing time so that he can evaluate them ahead of offseason.
The New England Revolution had a number of players away on international duty, but started a strong lineup. The only surprise came when Bobby Shuttleworth was given the start ahead of veteran keeper Matt Reis.
Both teams started out well and vied for possession, but neither team was able to control possession or the match early. The Dynamo nearly made the Revolution pay for a mistake when Cam Weaver pounced on a ball in the Revs box and saw his shot deflected. Brad Davis tried to get a shot off but Shuttleworth smothered the ball before the midfielder could get there.
The Dynamo dodged a bullet in the middle of the half when Ilija Stolica found space behind Ryan Cochrane and the rest of the Dynamo back line but could not meet the cross in time to get a a shot off.
The game took an interesting turn in the 27th minute when New England midfielder Pat Phelan went into a challenge on Geoff Cameron with his studs up, catching Cameron's knee. The challenge was red-card worthy but Phelan was only shown a yellow. After that challenge, both sides started to play more physical. Cam Weaver, Cory Gibbs and Ryan Cochrane all saw yellow cards late in the half.
New England took the lead in the 43rd minute when Shalrie Joseph beat a Dynamo offside trap on a long ball over the top of the defense and scored from inside the six yard box. Joseph's goal was a great piece of individual skill but was the result of the Dynamo back line sleeping on a play where they should have been more aware.
Dominic Oduro nearly equalized for Houston in the second minute of stoppage time when he blasted a shot from six yards out but saw Shuttleworth come up with a massive save, denying him of the goal.
Both teams went into the locker room at half time knowing that play would have to be tightened up in order to control the match.
Whatever Dominic Kinnear said to his players at halftime worked as the Dynamo started the second half with all cylinders firing and at full speed. The Dynamo opened up the half by controlling play with lots of possession and attacking the Revolution defense.
New England had a few decent looks at goal, but Houston struck first when Dominic Kinnear blasted in the equalizing goal in the 59th minute. The goal came off of a great bit of play from Houston with Corey Ashe finding Richard Mulrooney on an outside run. Mulrooney then first-timed a cross to the far side of the box that Oduro struck on the volley, shooting the ball across New England's goal and past Shuttleworth into the back of the net.
Oduro's goal was a great strike and marks another positive performance for the Ghanaian forward who now has five goals on the year.
The Dynamo controlled the match after Oduro's goal and looked like they were going to score a second goal on a number of occasions. But it was New England who scored a second goal when Kheli Dube found the back of Houston's net in the 73rd minute. Dube found himself alone on the backside of the box after Ryan Cochrane was caught out in possession on the far side of the field, and lost the ball that led to the New England goal. It was a poor moment for the Dynamo who had a total mental lapse that the Revolution exploited.
Dominic Kinnear immediately responded after the goal by pulling Cochrane and Mulrooney off and bringing on Danny Cruz and Mike Chabala. The substitution resulted in formation switch for Houston who switched from the usual 4-4-2 to a 3-5-2.
The switch proved positive and the Dynamo continued to create chances and cross balls in from the wings. The team had chance after chance but were unable to convert the crosses into a goal.
Dynamo substitute Joseph Ngwenya picked up a late straight red card in second half stoppage time when he went studs up into a challenge. The effort looked unintentional and was no worse than Pat Phelan's tackle on Geoff Cameron, but the referee deemed it red card worthy and sent Ngwenya off after just fourteen minutes of play.
Ngwenya was not the only Dynamo player sent off the pitch; Geoff Cameron retaliated against Phelan for his earlier tackle by elbowing the player in the neck and pushing the player in the face and too the ground. Cameron was shown a straight red card and was clearly irritated by the physicality and refereeing on the night.
The match was whistled over shortly thereafter with the Revolution winning with a final score of 2 - 1.
- The Dynamo were the better team on the night and had more chances on goal than New England. The Revolution had only two really good looks at goal but were able to convert them both.
- Dominic Oduro has been on-form lately and is a player that I hope continues to play with confidence. His contract is up this offseason and the Dynamo front office is sure to try and sign him to a new contract.
- The Dynamo defense continued to have mental lapses that proved costly. Even though this was not Houston's best back line, the mistakes should not have occurred and have, unfortunately, been a repetitive theme throughout the season. One has to think that Ryan Cochrane will not be in the Dynamo line-up next season.
- The entire Dynamo organization has to be ready to have their own stadium. The pitch at Robertson Stadium on Sunday night was very hard and played fast, clearly affecting the pace and style of the game. Hopefully the pitch at Houston's own stadium will be better managed and in better condition.
Check back here and at Dynamo Theory for some more post-match thoughts and analysis in the next day or two. Once player reactions and quotes are available we will share them with you.