KC unable to match Houston in physical tilt

Vermes, Wizards left to rue "ridiculous" first-half red card

Kei Kamara

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Getty Images

Playing Houston hasn’t exactly been a source for points for Kansas City over the last four years. That much didn’t change Saturday night at Robertson Stadium.

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Down to 10 men after Davy Arnaud’s controversial ejection in the 33rd minute, the Wizards lost a physical game 3-0 against a Dynamo side they haven’t beaten since the two teams first met in 2006.

“They came out pretty physical and ready to play,” Wizards head coach Peter Vermes said. “We didn’t match it at times, and other times we did.”

Kansas City were playing to keep pace in the Eastern Conference with the streaking New York Red Bulls, but a short-handed Houston squad grabbed control of the match in the first half and took advantage of its superior numbers to keep Vermes’ team from making an impact.

For the third consecutive game, Kansas City failed to score a goal. Unlike previous weeks, their defense failed to bail them out. Houston grabbed an early lead through Luis Ángel Landín and put the pressure on the Wizards throughout the second half.

“They had some very good chances on the counter on us,” Vermes said. “They could have put the game away three or four zero, or it could have been five at one point.”

Even though the loss and the circumstances surrounding it are certainly frustrating, Vermes isn’t fretting too much about his team’s road form so far this season. That would be entirely premature.

No doubt, playing away from CommunityAmerica Ballpark hasn’t been forgiving thus far in 2010. A last-minute loss in Seattle and playing down a man in Houston have spoiled the Wizards first two road matches, but Vermes knows his team will have to learn from these early stumbles to move forward.

The most crucial stumble Saturday night came when Arnaud was sent off in the 33rd minute after catching Dynamo goalkeeper Pat Onstad with his foot in pursuit of Josh Wolff's through ball. Although the veteran midfielder pleaded his case, referee Terry Vaughn ruled Arnaud’s challenge worthy of a red card.

“The red card was a little ridiculous,” Vermes said. “It changes the game completely.”

Houston made it clear from the very start that space would not come cheaply, and that only became more clear after Arnaud's dismissal. Both teams combined for 29 fouls and five cards in a game punctuated by stoppages in play.

And although Kansas City created some chances in the first half, relying on the service of Michael Harrington, Houston broke behind the Wizards backline with the pace of Dominic Oduro to take the lead and were never seriously challenged again.

Oduro was a handful all night for Vermes' back four, using his pace and shiftiness to frustrate Kansas City’s defense. His run in the 24th minute gave Houston a 1-0 lead as he turned Roger Espinoza and slipped Landín a pass that the Mexican delicately chipped over the sprawling Jimmy Nielsen.

But even down a man, Kansas City weathered the end of the first 45 minutes before Houston took control early in the second half. Hoping to even the match, Vermes shifted his formation to three defenders to begin the second half pushing for an equalizer.

“We had to try to get back in the game somehow,” Vermes said.

Unfortunately, Houston used the additional space freed up by Arnaud’s absence to put the game away through second-half goals by Brian Mullan and Sammy Appiah and guarantee the three points.

Unlike two weeks ago in Seattle, Kansas City never looked likely to take the points, even with Houston nursing multiple injuries. Although two road games without points isn’t enough to call the Wizards road form a trend, Vermes knows his team needs to begin getting more from its travels, starting next weekend at D.C. United.

“We have to get points,” Vermes said. “As we continue to strive forward, we are going to have to figure out how to get points on the road, for sure.”