The Houston Dynamo fought the heat, humidity and an organized home defense in the CONCACAF Champions League opener at W Connection and picked up just a point for their troubles with a 0-0 draw on Tuesday night in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.
In the early going, neither club was eager to come out of their shell, and despite a late push, the scoreline rarely looked in danger of changing. When it did, the lack of a final touch failed players on both sides.
No one will know that better than W Connection midfielder Neil Benjamin, as his two late misses deprived his team of the full three points.
Houston were late to get back on a counter in the 73rd minute and W Connection had Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall beaten on a two-on-one break. Benjamin, however, hesitated and put the point blank shot in the side netting to keep things tied up.
Compounding the home side's frustration, Benjamin got on a break in the 85th minute down the left flank. But like his first attempt, a right-footed chip, was just off target, striking the frame of the goal and bouncing away.
Benjamin’s late efforts were the best in a handful of attempts that the Trinidadian club created in the final 20 minutes. But like their visitors, none of their chances found the back of the net.
Before the failed breakaway on the other end, Johnson smashed a shot in the penalty box right into a W Connection defender, perpetuating the theme of an organized, compact home defense making life miserable on the Dynamo attack.
After the measured start to the game, Houston came alive in the 35th minute when debutant Designated Player Alexander López, who was active in his playmaking role, ignited an attack up the spine, linking with Driver through the middle. The Scotsman took López’s feed and found a hard-charging Johnson, who was active all night, but the rookie cut loose a moonshot to kill the attack.
Two minutes later Kofi Sarkodie found Brian Ching after a redirected corner kick. The veteran forward one-touched a ball to forward partner Cam Weaver but the shot across his body was over the crossbar.
Weaver had two late chances at headers in the final four minutes, once on a corner and the other on a Driver cross, but neither effort found the back of the net, leaving both sides with a point apiece.
Houston will return to MLS play on Saturday when they travel to Montreal to face the Impact before hosting Panamanian club Árabe Unido, who sit atop Group 1 after an earlier win over W Connection on August 27.
W Connection (0-1-1; 1 point) vs. Houston Dynamo (0-0-1; 1 point)
CONCACAF Champions League group stage (Game 1 of 4)
August 20, 2013 – Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Houston Dynamo: Tally Hall; Kofi Sarkodie, Eric Brunner, Jermaine Taylor, Mike Chabala; Andrew Driver, Alexander Lopez (Adam Moffat 86), Warren Creavalle, Jason Johnson (Brian Ownby 86); Brian Ching (Giles Barnes 68), Cam Weaver
Substitutes not used: Erich Marscheider, Bobby Boswell, Anthony Arena, Alex Dixon
W Connection: Heiber Figueroa; Kurt Frederick, Christian Viveros, João Ananias, Mekeil Williams; Gerard Williams, Celio da Silva Santos, Joevin Jones (Silvio Spann 68), Hachim Arcia (Jerrel Britto 46), Neil Benjamin; Mirko Delia (Andrei Pacheco 77)
Substitutes not used: Julanni Archibald, Jomal Williams, Yefer Steven Lozano Rubiano, Leslie Russell
Houston: Andrew Driver (caution) 41
W Connection: Silvio Spann (caution) 76
Referee: Marco Antonio Rodriguez