Things went pretty much as expected in the opening match of the Carolina Challenge Cup between Houston Dynamo and Toronto FC. Even missing five starters through injury and national team call-ups, Houston looked very much like defending MLS Cup champions. Toronto, on the other hand, demonstrated the growing pains that come with an expansion year. Houston handily beat Toronto 2-0 behind goals by Ryan Cochrane and Chris Wondolowski.
Both teams ran out an approximation of what would be their first teams if the season were to begin this weekend, though both were missing several starters, and let them run, both coaches keeping substitutions to a minimum.
In the fifth minute, it looked like Houston had struck first blood when Wondolowski beat Toronto’s Greg Sutton from close range but was ruled offside. Nine minutes later, Cochrane easily touched home a Brad Davis corner kick after Sutton misplayed the in-swinging ball. All an unmarked Cochrane had to do was help the ball into the goal.
Sutton redeemed himself, however, diving to his left to parry wide a long-range bomb from Davis that should have been Houston’s second goal. Houston continued to control the run of play through to the halftime whistle.
The second half began in much the same vein as the first. In the 72nd minute, Toronto coach Mo Johnston looked for an offensive spark by inserting Abbe Ibrahim in for Jose Cancela.
“It bit us,” Johnston said. “The substitution opened things up for them in the back.”
With Toronto putting more pressure forward, Houston took advantage of the space in the midfield when Kevin Goldthwaite sprung Wondolowski with a cross-field ball from the left flank. Wondolowski ran through Toronto’s offside trap and easily slotted the ball past Sutton.
It was not all doom and gloom for Toronto, however. After joining the team on Friday, Richard Mulrooney started and played all 90 minutes.
Both teams will be in action Wednesday as the round-robin tournament continues. Toronto will face New York Red Bull at 6 p.m. Houston will take on the Charleston Battery at 8:15.
Houston Dynamo (1-0-0) vs. Toronto FC (0-1-0)
March 24, 2007 -- Blackbaud Stadium, Charleston SC
Carolina Challenge Cup
HOU -- Ryan Cochrane 1 (unassisted) 14
HOU -- Chris Wondolowski 1 (Kevin Goldthwaite 1) 73
Houston Dynamo -- unavailable.
Toronto FC -- unavailable.
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial