With first place in Group B on the line, the Houston Dynamo sealed their place in the SuperLiga semifinals with a 1-0 win against D.C. United on Wednesday night at Robertson Stadium. Brian Ching scored the lone goal of the game in the 50th minute, and the Dynamo defense did the rest.
Houston advances to take on Pachuca in the semifinals on Aug. 14 at Robertson Stadium, while D.C. had to wait for Wednesday's late game between Monarcas Morelia and Club America to see if they advanced to the semifinals.
It was a cagey opening 15 minutes, with neither team giving up much. But United created the first chances of the game, first from Luciano Emilio just on the edge of the area, but his shot went straight at Houston goalkeeper Zach Wells. Ten minutes later, Ben Olsen took a pass at the top of the box and fired a shot goalward, which Wells easily cradled. United could have taken the lead in the 31st minute when Emilio got a foot on a loose ball in the box, but his shot from the right side of the area went wide.
The Dynamo did not create much in the opening 45 minutes, but they came the closest to finding the back of the net. First, in the 36th minute, a Dwayne De Rosario free kick was deflected to the left post where Ching came in late, but he headed the ball over with the open goal yawning.
United then were narrowly given a reprieve seconds later. Stuart Holden dribbled toward the United area before cutting to his right and wrong-footing a pair of United defenders. He hammered a low drive that beat United goalkeeper Troy Perkins inside his near post, but the ball hit the base of the post and came straight back out through the goalmouth. De Rosario latched on to the rebound at the top of the area, but Perkins recovered and caught his follow-up chance.
Just after the break, United threatened to break the deadlock in the 49th minute. Christian Gomez received a pass well outside the area and hit a swerving shot that Wells dove to his right to tip over the bar. Despite the touch, a goal kick was given, and it proved decisive.
From Wells' restart, Nate Jaqua won a header at midfield and sent it looping over the United backline. Ching raced inside Josh Gros and held off the United defender before hitting a looping volley across his body with his left foot, the ball sailing past Perkins' dive and inside the right-hand post.
From the kickoff, United nearly caught out Houston at the other end, but Brian Carroll's shot from 30 yards out was caught by Wells. The Orange then nearly doubled their lead in the 52nd minute when Ching laid a ball off to Holden, but Perkins saved Holden's shot from the middle of the area
Chasing the equalizer, United started to apply more pressure as the Dynamo began to retreat deeper into their their end. Fred won a free kick some 30 yards out from goal on the left that Gomez again stood over, and Wells again tipped over his curling effort aimed for the back post. On a Houston counter, De Rosario had a good look at goal from the right side of the area in the 59th minute, but his attempt was deflected by a retreating D.C. defender and went over the goal.
United then had a glorious chance to pull level. After some good possession, Emilio got the ball on the right and rounded a defender before sliding a rolling cross into the goalmouth. Bobby Boswell was all alone in the six-yard box but somehow missed the ball as he slipped on a patch of bare dirt.
In the 77th minute, Emilio took the ball inside the area on the left and fired toward goal at the far post. A diving Wells seemed to be beaten, but Ryan Cochrane was able to stick a leg out and deflect the ball over the goal. Then five minutes from the end, substitute Jaime Moreno was tripped up right on the edge of the area. But this time he banged his free kick into the wall, and the Dynamo saw out the final few minutes to ensure the Black-and-Red would have a long night of nerves ahead.
Jeremy Rakes is a contributor to MLSnet.com.
D.C. United (1-1-1) vs. Houston Dynamo (2-0-1)
August 01, 2007 -- Robertson Stadium, Houston TX
SuperLiga - Group B
HOU -- Brian Ching 1 (Nate Jaqua 1) 50
D.C. United -- Troy Perkins, Bobby Boswell, Marc Burch (Jaime Moreno 63), Joshua Gros, Devon McTavish, Ben Olsen, Brian Carroll (Clyde Simms 83), Rod Ryachenko (Guy-Roland Kpene 35), Christian Gomez, Fred (Bryan Namoff 79), Luciano Emilio.
Substitutes Not Used: Jay Nolly, Jeff Carroll, Domenic Mediate.
Houston Dynamo -- Zach Wells, Craig Waibel, Ryan Cochrane, Eddie Robinson, Wade Barrett, Stuart Holden, Richard Mulrooney, Dwayne De Rosario, Corey Ashe (Ricardo Clark 68), Brian Ching, Nate Jaqua (Joseph Ngwenya 76).
Substitutes Not Used: Pat Onstad, Mike Chabala, Paul Dalglish, Patrick Ianni, Chris Wondolowski.
DC -- Marc Burch (caution; Tackle from Behind) 61
DC -- Guy-Roland Kpene (caution; Reckless Foul) 86
HOU -- Richard Mulrooney (caution; Tackle from Behind) 92+
Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Referee's Assistants: George Gansner; Kermit Quisenberry
4th official: Jair Marrufo
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial