Another defensive lapse cost the Houston Dynamo a full three points Thursday night as Toronto FC battled back -- both literally and figuratively -- to tie Houston 1-1 when an unmarked Dan Gargan scored on a set piece in the 83rd minute.
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“Yeah, you know, a little disappointed we didn’t come away with three points just because we had the lead,” said Dynamo forward Brian Ching, who scored the game’s opening goal in the 72nd minute with a header of his own. “When the season isn’t going well, you have to go out there and play, and that’s what we did tonight. It wasn’t pretty, but we got a point out of it, and we’re happy with that.”
Houston’s starting lineup had a sizeable omission, as midfielder Brad Davis was replaced by Joseph Ngwenya. Davis suffered a strained hip flexor before the match, and Houston elected to go with Brian Mullan up top, with Ngwenya playing in the hole behind the two forwards. While Ngwenya showed flashes at attacking midfield, he clearly looked uncomfortable for portions of the first half.
However, Ngwenya did his best and showed some real fight, but probably a little too much, as he got into it with several Toronto players early in the second half. The Houston forward and Toronto's Julian De Guzman both earned red cards in the scuffle, two of three ejections on the night that accompanied the five yellow cards that were shown in what turned out to be a very physical battle.
“I thought it was a very physical game and, with the three red cards, obviously it was,” said Dynamo goalkeeper Pat Onstad. “You know Preki gets his team up for it, especially at home, and I think we matched them today. Disappointing in the end [because] we let a late goal go in, but overall probably a fair result.”
Houston has now gone winless in its last five MLS games and remains winless at BMO Field. However, Toronto FC has been a tough nut to crack defensively as of late, keeping opponents scoreless in two previous MLS games.
As a result, Houston did well to score and was unlucky not to put in a second, because Brian Mullan was wrongfully flagged for offside in the 58th minute. Replays showed that the striker was onside, but Toronto FC keeper Stefan Frei seemed to quit on the play when he saw the flag go up; therefore, Mullan’s shot on goal might have been handled differently by Frei had the flag stayed down.
“We were unlucky enough to not come with more than one,” noted coach Dominic Kinnear. “[I] thought we were a little hard done by. It’s a gritty performance by us; I was very encouraged by that and thought everyone put their heart and soul into it.”
Dwain Capodice is a contributor to MLSsoccer.com. Questions or comments can be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.