For the next ten business days, HoustonDynamo.com will count down the ten best Dynamo games of 2012. With so many great games to choose from, it was difficult to settle on ten, and tougher still to decide how to rank them. We will unveil one game per day, with a look back at what made the game special and include game highlights. Here is #9:
Dynamo 1 : 1 C.D. Olimpia (Honduras)
Oct. 23, 2012 - BBVA Compass Stadium
CONCACAF Champions League group play
Just three days after clinching a berth in the MLS Cup playoffs for the sixth time in seven years, the Dynamo had a chance to book their place in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. Houston hosted C.D. Olimpia of Honduras on Oct. 23 in the final Champions League group stage game for both clubs. A win or tie for the Dynamo would ensure passage in the CCL quarterfinals while Los Leones needed a win to advance.
Olimpia is one of the strongest clubs in Central America, and one of only three clubs in the region to qualify for the first five editions of the Champions League. Its 25 Honduran League titles are more than double the amount of the club with the second-most Honduran titles (Motagua, 12).
Furthermore, Olimpia brought a team to Houston featuring nine current or former members of the Honduran national team (Goalkeepers Donis Escober and Noel Valladares, defenders Brayan Beckeles and Juan Carlos Garcia, midfielders Javier Portillo, Luis Garrido, Carlos Mejia and Alexander Lopez, and forward Roger Rojas).
The group stage of the Champions League does not leave much margin for error. Each club plays four games – two games against each of its group rivals – and only the winner of the group advances to the quarterfinals. The Dynamo took care of business in their first two group games, earning a 3-1 road win at C.D. FAS of El Salvador on Aug. 22 before securing a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Olimpia eight days later.
In the first meeting with Olimpia, Houston fell behind 1-0 after just seven minutes on a clever flicked header from Olimpia forward Douglas Caetano. Adam Moffat leveled the scored in the 57th minute on a header of his own before Nathan Sturgis was ejected on a questionable red card just four minutes later. The Dynamo survived the final 30 minutes down a man for a vital road point.
After a 4-0 home thrashing of FAS in Houston’s third group stage game on Sept. 20, the Dynamo were in good position to win the group, but needed a result against a hungry Olimpia side looking to shake off a surprising loss at FAS a month earlier.
In the deciding game at BBVA Compass Stadium – No. 9 on our countdown of the Top 10 Dynamo games of 2012 – Olimpia seized an early advantage through forward Douglas Caetano. In the 21st minute, Caetano cracked a free kick from just inside the left touchline – about 40 yards from goal - past Dynamo goalkeeper Tyler Deric, who got a hand on the powerful shot, but couldn’t keep it out of the net. Like the first meeting, the Dynamo faced an early deficit against the Hondurans.
Caetano’s goal also enlivened the vocal fan support wearing the white and blue of Olimpia. The loud support for Olimpia provided BBVA Compass Stadium its first true bipartisan atmosphere for a Dynamo game, and the home fans in orange responded with vocal banter of their own. The result was a loud, international-level atmosphere for 90 minutes.
The Dynamo nearly equalized through Cam Weaver early in the second half. The tall forward headed a cross off the post for a near equalizer.
Houston’s leveler came in the 65th minute on a corner kick from Sturgis. The center back curled in a cross toward the edge of the near-corner of the six-yard box, where Andre Hainault flicked a powerful header over Olimpia goalkeeper Donis Escobar for the tying goal.
It was Sturgis’ third assist in as many Champions League games.
The Dynamo seemed on their way to the quarterfinals when Calen Carr drew a second yellow card from Olimpia defender Brayan Beckeles, reducing the Hondurans to ten men for the final 11 minutes. Houston, with help from Boniek Garcia, who entered as a substitute for the final 12 minutes against his former team, closed out the remainder of the game to win the group.
The Dynamo will face Mexican powerhouse Santos Laguna in the Champions League quarterfinals, a home-and-home aggregate series set for March 2013.
Return to HoustonDynamo.com on Wednesday for Game #8 on our list of the Top Ten Dynamo games of 2012.