The Houston Dynamo may have gotten the proverbial three points on Thursday night in the team’s hope opener, but an offense that created no shots on goal in the run of play and a Brian Ching injury dampened the festivities at Robertson Stadium as Houston defeated defending MLS Cup champions Real Salt Lake 2-1.
The first half was forgettable for the Dynamo. While the team didn't play poorly, they were mis-clicking offensively on the night, particularly in the first half. Frustrations mounted even more when Salt Lake jumped out to an early lead. Álvaro Saborío, after colliding with Ryan Cochrane, fed teammate Javier Morales, who calmly beat Dynamo ‘keeper Pat Onstad for his third goal in two games to give Salt Lake the lead.
“I think we all know we didn’t start out the game well, we started out flat,” midfielder Brad Davis said after the match. “I think the start to the second half was fantastic. We knew we needed to get back into the game and the mentality coming out in the second half was proper and that’s what we did.”
As if the early goal wasn’t bad enough, forward Brian Ching suffered an injury to his hamstring and was replaced by Luis Ángel Landín in the 31st minute. Ching was unavailable to talk to the media after the game, but coach Dominic Kinnear talked about the injury to his captain.
“I know it’s a hamstring and other than that we’ll find out more,” Kinnear said. “I wish I knew more. He said he felt it pretty good.”
“Anytime you lose a key player like that, it’s tough,” left back Mike Chabala said. “But we have quality guys in the locker room. We were upset with how we performed and we didn’t play bad, but we thought we could play better.”
The second half was a different story. The Dynamo came out and put immediate pressure on Salt Lake. The extra pressure resulted in two penalties in less than two minutes, both conceded by Salt Lake defender Jámison Olave. In both cases, midfielder Brad Davis stepped up to the spot and calmly beat Real Salt Lake ‘keeper Nick Rimando.
“Be confident and smash it,” Davis said about his penalty-taking philosophy. “[On the first one], I knew he usually guesses and he took a couple of steps. I just wanted to smash it down the middle and a little high where he couldn’t react to it. On the second one, I felt confident going that way and just said be confident, and hit it hard to a corner and that’s what I did.”
Still, the Dynamo had no shots on goal from the run of play, a stat that upset the players despite getting the win.
“I think with Chingy hurt, we need a couple of guys to step up,” Davis noted. “We all need to do a better job of being better composed in the final third. Once we get in the final third, I think [we felt] we have to go to goal immediately. I think we’ll watch some video and iron some things out. Biggest thing is though we got a victory. It hasn’t always been the prettiest wins, but we get wins and if that’s what it takes we’re going to grind it out.”
Kinnear was pleased with his team’s improved second-half performance, particularly the effort.
“[It was a] great response coming out of the locker room,” he said. “These guys are the defending champs and a good team. It’s a good win for our team for a number of reasons. All the games aren’t going to be easy and we aren’t going to play beautiful football all the time. As long as we show the same commitment and belief that we showed tonight for those 90 minutes, we will be fine.”
Forward Dominic Oduro agreed with his coach in summing up the night.
“At the end of the day, we got three points,” noted Oduro. “It doesn’t have to be pretty.”