The Houston Dynamo advanced to the quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for the second time in four years with a 2-0 win over the Austin Aztex Wednesday night at Nelson Field in Austin. Midfielder Corey Ashe, a halftime substitute, had a hand in two goals in the final 20 minutes to lift the Dynamo to the win and a road date next Tuesday in the quarterfinals against the Charleston Battery, the team that knocked the Dynamo out of the tournament in each of the last two years.
With both teams at less than full strength due to injuries and, in the Dynamo’s case, national team call-ups, Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear went with a 3-5-2 formation that included only three regular starters: defender Bobby Boswell and midfielders Brian Mullan and Richard Mulrooney.
The Dynamo took the early initiative, as English forward Ade Akinbiyi had a goal disallowed for an offside whistle just 40 seconds into the match. Mullan went close in the fifth minute, when he fired a left-footed shot from a cleared corner kick, but Austin’s Jeff Harwell was in position on the left post to deflect the shot away. In the ninth minute, Houston’s John Michael Hayden tried his luck with a turnaround left-footed shot from the top of the penalty area, but Austin goalkeeper Sam Reynolds held the shot easily.
Austin’s first early chance came in the 13th minute, when Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall, making his competitive debut for Houston, had to be alert to clear a soft back pass outside the box, and Aztex midfielder Jeff Harwell tried to float in a shot from the right sideline, but Hall got back to tip the ball over the end line.
The best chance of the first half came in the 40th minute, when Austin forward Kyle Brown, who played for the Dynamo last season, latched onto a long ball from right back Gareth Evans and fired a wide-angle left-footed shot toward the top left corner, but Hall tipped the ball away at full stretch.
At halftime, Houston brought on Geoff Cameron and Corey Ashe for Mulrooney and Mullan, respectively, as part of their plan to keep players fresh for MLS action this weekend. Both teams struggled for chances early in the second half, but the Dynamo almost broke the deadlock in the 60th minute. Midfielder Danny Cruz, less than 24 hours removed from a lengthy plane trip from Egypt on U.S. U-20 national team duty, played the ball inside to Dominic Oduro, and he rifled a shot from a bad angle that caromed off the crossbar, down off the goal line, and back into play. Akinbiyi tried to follow up but could not connect on his header.
The Dynamo did break through in the 70th minute from a free kick 23 yards from goal just to the right of center. Hayden bent a shot over the wall, and Reynolds dove to tip the ball into the crossbar. The rebound then caromed into the center of the six-yard box, where Ashe reacted first and dove to head the ball into the net from close range. The goal was the first for Ashe since he scored the clinching goal against Pachuca in SuperLiga play on July 29, 2008, a goal that also came from a header.
Austin’s best chance to tie the game came five minutes later, when substitute Jarius Holmes made a run up the left side before slipping a pass in to Eddie Johnson, who got to the top of the box before firing a low right-footed shot that Hall alertly smothered. In the 77th minute, the Dynamo almost put the game away when Oduro had a breakaway opportunity, but Reynolds charged out to make the stop.
Houston finally sealed things in the 90th minute when a flowing passing sequence culminated with substitute Kei Kamara finding Ashe on the left, and he broke into the box before crossing to the top of the six-yard box, where Oduro flew in to volley the ball behind Reynolds for his first Dynamo goal.
The Dynamo are one of four MLS teams to qualify for the quarterfinals, and they will get a chance for a little revenge on Tuesday when they face the Charleston Battery at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston for the third consecutive year.
Houston Dynamo vs. Austin Aztex
July 1, 2009 -- Nelson Field, Austin TX
Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup -- Round 3
HOU -- Corey Ashe 1 (unassisted) 71
HOU -- Dominic Oduro 1 (Corey Ashe 1) 90
Houston Dynamo -- Tally Hall, Mike Chabala, Bobby Boswell,
Julius James, Brian Mullan (Corey Ashe 46), John Michael Hayden, Richard
Mulrooney (Geoff Cameron 46), Erik Ustruck, Danny Cruz, Dominic Oduro,
Ade Akinbiyi (Kei Kamara 80).
Substitutes Not Used: Brad Davis, Pat Onstad, Craig Waibel, Cam Weaver.
Austin Aztex -- Sam Reynolds, Josh Alcala, Wes Allen
(Jarius Holmes 63), Kieron Bernard, Marshall Yohance (Lyle Adams 80),
Gareth Evans, Jeff Harwell (Alex Tapp 70), Michael Callahan, Ryan
Caugherty, Kyle Brown, Eddie Johnson.
Substitutes Not Used: David Winner, Zack Pope, David Sias.
AUS -- Ryan Caugherty (caution; Reckless Foul) 37
AUS -- Michael Callahan (caution; Reckless Tackle) 62
Referee: Jeremy Vehar
Referee's Assistants: Kyle Borne; Adam Garner
4th official: Carlos Salas
Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-94-degrees
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial