On Tuesday night the Houston Dynamo will play Arabe Unido in their second CONCACAF Champions League group stage game (7 pm CT; TICKETS). The clubs have some history, having met before in CCL for one of the most memorable – or infamous – games in the Dynamo’s CCL history.
Between two power outages, five ejections and a cell phone-driven light show, their 1-1 draw in Panama in 2009 will go down as a game fans and players alike remember.
“Describing CONCACAF, I say it’s such a cool tournament but you won’t realize it until that season or that game’s done,” goalkeeper Tally Hall said. “With CONCACAF, especially in the group stages, it’s kind of weird but you look back and think it’s a cool, unique experience to be a part of. You really don’t know what’s going to happen.”
That game in 2009 was certainly unique, starting with a light failure. But unlike that year’s Western Conference final, when the lights went out on the Dynamo at Home Depot Center against the LA Galaxy, the darkness in Panama was a whole new experience.
“My first thought was to get on one knee to become a small target, because you can’t see anything so it’s not like you can defend yourself,” Hall recalled. “You try to group together as a team and then after 30 seconds you realize nobody’s coming on the field then it’s kind of, ‘All right, this is a unique experience.’
“There were cell phones out so it was kind of a light show at the stadium. It went from, ‘This could be really bad’ to ‘This is going to be a funny story.’”
The lights were the funny part. The officiating wasn’t so humorous. The game was chippy to say the least and five players were ejected, including the Dynamo's Corey Ashe, Andre Hainault and Stuart Holden.
“That was a lot of everything. The refereeing that night was possibly the worst I’ve ever seen in CONCACAF,” head coach Dominic Kinnear said. “I just remember the first red card Corey got was in the most comical circumstances I’ve ever seen. The guy farthest away from that play is the one that called it. We tied that game, 1-1, and they scored late.”
Amid all the interesting happenings, the clubs played to a 1-1 draw. On Tuesday, the Dynamo hope to take the full three points, given that there is a premium on home points with only four group-stage games under the current CCL format.
Could another wild night be in store? At BBVA Compass Stadium, the lights are likely to stay on. And while the referees are always capable of influencing the story, Houston’s hoping that whatever happens they come out on top and take control of their CCL destiny.
“It’s not a must, but in order to advance in any tournament it’s a good idea to win your home games and get points on the road,” Kinnear said. “We did that last year. We know Árabe Unido are no slouches. We have to come in with a good attitude…We have to put away our chances.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.