A successful week two for the Texas MLS teams. The Houston Dynamo won their second straight home game to open the season, 3-1 over Columbus Crew. FC Dallas managed (an appropriate word to describe their approach) a scoreless draw on the road against Sporting Kansas City (SKC), in what was a tough test during a congested early-season schedule.
Ahead of the game in Houston, Columbus coach Gregg Berhalter made no bones about the fact that the Crew would stick with their possession style against the Dynamo and promised an entertaining night for the fans. Unfortunately, this backfired on the Crew when an errant attempt to play out of the back, which resulted from poor communication between goalie Zach Steffen and midfielder Wil Trapp, resulted in a giveaway which Rommel Quioto promptly buried for his second goal of the season. Columbus then took advantage of acres of space between the Dynamo lines to control the game for significant stretches of the remainder of the half. A series of saves starting in the 28th minute bailed the Dynamo out during the most dangerous of the Crew attacking waves and Houston was lucky to not be level. First, Tyler Deric came aggressively off his line to stop Federico Higuain who had broken free to go one-on-one with Deric. Second, Deric made a superb save on a headed ball off the resulting corner. Finally, left-back Dylan Remick, who was making his Dynamo debut in place of DaMarcus Beasley, cleared a second corner kick off the line to keep the score 1-0. Shortly thereafter, Alberth Elis scored his first Houston goal on a side-volley off of an excellent Alex Lima corner. The Dynamo finished their scoring when Cubo Torres scored his second of the season in the 65th minute. Again, it was Alex who keyed the goal by making a David Beckham-like diagonal cross to an open Torres. Credit also to Elis, who pulled away from the center of the penalty box, freezing the center defender, giving Cubo the space to come inside and score the superb goal (which is now a nominee for MLS goal of the week.) Only a last second goal from Columbus forward Ola Kamara, which appeared to be offside by the way, prevented the Dynamo from securing their first shutout of the season. Two other positives items of note on the night. First, the Dynamo tightened up in the second half and Columbus had much more difficulty finding passing lanes than they did in the first half, or Seattle did for that matter in the second half last week. Second, Cubo Torres had a significant influence on both of the other goals that doesn’t show up in the score sheet. It was his pressure on Steffen that helped contribute to the misplay that resulted in the opening goal. He also made a near post run on the corner kick that dragged two defenders with him, leaving Elis wide-open for his goal. This is the Cubo Torres all of us expected to see when he first joined Houston in 2015. Better late than never. A rain forecast, which really didn’t materialize until the 55th minute, held the attendance to a disappointing 16,486. To be fair to the rain though, Houston soccer fans generally find a lot of creative reasons not to show up for Dynamo games.
FC Dallas (FCD) managed to secure a point in Kansas City on a night when their strategy appeared to be survival. Ahead of the Scotiabank CCL match on Wednesday, coach Oscar Pareja ran out a lineup missing a number of starters and also included 17 year old rookie Paxton Pomykal in his MLS debut. Dallas only had a few decent opportunities on the evening, and the best one should have been called offside. 9 yellow cards (6 by FCD) and creative attempts to slow the game down contributed to an ugly night. It was amusing to listen to the Kansas City announcers complain endlessly about time-wasting, fouls, injury faking, defending with 10 men behind the ball and producing a game that was “not pleasing on the eye” (as if that was Dallas’s responsibility) and other such bilge. SKC coach, Peter Vermes, keeping in form, was full of complaints after the game about “antics” and insinuated that the referee did not control these appropriately. All of this complaining completely ignores the fact that SKC was their own worst enemy. Despite the accusations of “not coming out to play” FCD managed twice as many shots on goal and, by the way, SKC also actually finished the game with 5 more fouls than Dallas. Plus, in the same situation as Dallas was Saturday night, Vermes probably would have done exactly the same thing. SKC is consistent in their everybody hates us approach, if nothing else. They rarely allow any alternative explanations to get in the way of their us against the world narrative and the righteous indignation appears to be in full form already in 2017. Full disclosure…you may suspect that I don’t much like Sporting Kansas City. You would be right. Regardless, kudos to FCD, who did what they needed to do to get a result on the road. This team seems to find ways to do this under all conditions and their depth is a serious difference maker.