Shea Salinas played hero on Saturday, scoring an 86th-minute winner as the Vancouver Whitecaps ended the Houston Dynamo’s five-game unbeaten run with a 1-0 victory at Empire Field.
The first half was one defined by missed opportunities, as both teams came agonizingly close but failed to score time after time.
Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall nearly gifted the Whitecaps the lead in the ninth minute, as he misplayed a Davide Chiumiento free kick. The Washington-born goalkeeper looked as if he was going to catch the ball but mishandled to push it against the post and cause a mad scramble in front of his net. Hall recovered to regather the ball.
Just one minute later, the Dynamo nearly hurt themselves again when Bobby Boswell passed an awkward bouncing ball back to his goalkeeper. Hall panicked with his clearance, blasting the ball against Gershon Koffie’s head from close range, and was fortunate to see the ball bounce to safety.
After surviving those early scares, Houston regrouped and nearly took the lead in the 11th minute, as midfielder Adam Moffat unloaded a rocket of a shot from about 30 yards out. His long-range effort beat Joe Cannon comfortably, but, to the relief of the 20,226 fans at Empire Field, ricocheted off the crossbar.
Cannon may have been fortunate on that instance, but he recovered well to stop a deflected Brad Davis shot from outside in the 23rd minute and had to make four saves in the half.
At the other end, Hall came up with a standout save of his own when he dove to his left to stop a Mustapha Jarju header from a Chiumiento free kick. In the third minute of stoppage time, Jarju expertly laid a pass back to Salinas, only for the Texan to fire over the net from a wonderful position to end the half 0-0.
The second half began in controversial fashion, as referee Niko Bratsis pointed to the penalty spot after Cannon appeared to foul Houston striker Carlo Costly in the 48th minute. However, Bratsis reversed his decision after consulting with the assistant referee, calling a foul against Costly prior to Cannon's foul.
Five minutes later, Eric Hassli forced Hall into a great save after Koffie played the big striker into a good position with a through ball. The Frenchman expertly pulled the ball back to himself before powering a left-footed shot which Hall managed to knock clear for a corner.
The Dynamo began to pick up steam as the game progressed, but several chances by Brian Ching went wanting as the Whitecaps survived the onslaught. Cannon saved from Ching in the 72nd minute, and Ching pushed a close-range header wide left a minute later.
Houston's wastefulness was punished in the 86th minute when substitute Long Tan turned his marker expertly outside the box before putting Salinas through. The winger finished the play with a well-placed low shot into the bottom right corner to give his team the 1-0 victory.
The Whitecaps now move on to play the New York Red Bulls on Sept. 10, while the Dynamo host defending CONCACAF champions Monterrey for a Sept. 4 friendly at Robertson Stadium.
Houston Dynamo (8-8-11) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (4-13-9)
August 27, 2011 -- Empire Field, Vancouver, BC, CAN
VAN -- Shea Salinas 1 (Long Tan 2) 86
Houston Dynamo -- Tally Hall, Hunter Freeman, Bobby Boswell, Andre Hainault, Corey Ashe, Colin Clark (Je-Vaughn Watson 67), Adam Moffat, Geoff Cameron, Brad Davis, Brian Ching (Cam Weaver 85), Carlo Costly (Calen Carr 67).
Substitutes Not Used: Tyler Deric, Alex Dixon, Eddie Robinson, Jermaine Taylor.
Vancouver Whitecaps -- Joe Cannon, Jonathan Leathers, Alain Rochat, Jay DeMerit, Jordan Harvey, John Thorrington (Shea Salinas 33), Peter Vagenas, Gershon Koffie, Davide Chiumiento (Long Tan 75), Mustapha Jarju (Jeb Brovsky 85), Eric Hassli.
Substitutes Not Used: Jay Nolly, Michael Boxall, Philippe Davies, Omar Salgado.
VAN -- Davide Chiumiento (caution; Tactical Foul) 57
HOU -- Bobby Boswell (caution; Reckless Tackle) 89
Referee: Niko Bratsis
Referee's Assistants: Craig Lowry; Claudio Badea
4th Official: Ricardo Salazar
Weather: Sunny-and-79 degrees
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial