In a game that will be characterized for it’s unusual circumstances, it was an unusual hero who came through for the Houston Dynamo in their 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake on Thursday night.
Colin Clark had not started a match since June 23, but with the Dynamo decimated by international call-ups, illness and injury — Houston head coach Dom Kinnear only had 16 players available and three potential pregame lineups — the midfielder was thrust off the bench and into a starting role, and eventually a starring role, as he stepped up in stoppage time and buried a penalty kick past RSL goalkeeper and renowned PK stopper Nick Rimando for the victory.
WATCH: Clark scores the winning PK
Adding to the unusual was how Clark wound up on the spot in the first place.
“I was running over to congratulate Mac [Kandji] on drawing the foul and Brad [Davis] was grabbing the ball and asked me to step up and I was like, ‘Yeah, sure,’” Clark said. “There was one thought in my mind and that was that I was going to step up and smash it down the middle. I never had a vision of [Rimando] coming close to saving it.”
Houston’s usual spot kick specialist, Davis, was the first to grab the ball after Rimando barreled into Kandji in the first minute of stoppage time; after all, he is the obvious choice to take the chance in such a big moment.
But after having his penalty kick saved in the 76th minute, Davis did not hesitate in handing off the chance to his teammate.
“I know [Clark] hits a good ball and that’s what he did,” Davis said after the match. “It’s one of those things where I stepped up against [Rimando], hit a good penalty and he just went the right way and made a good save. I know Colin hits a good ball and [Rimando] saved my first one — that’s a credit to him and I can’t take anything away from him — but I told [Clark] to step up and bury it.”
Clark followed the Dynamo captain’s orders by calmly burying a left-footed blast past an outstretched Rimando, who had saved 27 of the previous 56 attempts against him, and sending the Houston faithful home happy.
It was a fitting end to a bizarre, yet satisfying, night that had Dynamo players and fans ready to run away with the full reward.
“I wanted it to be [over],” Clark said about his disappearing celebration just before the final whistle. “I thought we had played our stoppage time and I wanted to get up to the tunnel and celebrate with the boys in the locker room. We had a pretty good performance shorthanded and showed our depth tonight and got a great result.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @DarrellLovell.