FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The Houston Dynamo maintained its grasp on fourth place in the Eastern Conference with a 1-1 draw on the road against the New England Revolution on Saturday night.
New England appeared on course to collect all three points when Saer Sene opened the scoring with a rasping, sharp-angle drive after 64 minutes. But Will Bruin produced the Dynamo's response after 76 minutes to ensure the visitors claimed a share of the spoils in a tense affair at Gillette Stadium.
The stalemate left Houston two points clear in the race for fourth place, while the Revs closed within a point of the fifth-placed Philadelphia Union (with the Chicago Fire still left to finish its game against the Montréal Impact after the final whistle).
The significant stakes took their toll on the first-half proceedings. Houston dictated the terms of the affair with the Revs struggling to find their usual cadence in possession or operate fluidly through the middle of the park.
In a half with just one shot on goal combined between the two sides, the modest threats usually came from set pieces. Giles Barnes forced Matt Reis into an easy save from a Dynamo free kick and Chris Tierney smacked a sharp-angle free kick off the near post before Tally Hall pushed away the potential rebound off the carom.
Neither side, however, managed to create a clear-cut chance from the run of play before the halftime whistle. Matters improved a bit after the interval as Houston started brightly and New England eventually inserted the returning Juan Agudelo to turn the proceedings.
Agudelo replaced the injured Imbongo after 62 minutes and immediately sparked his side to life. The returning forward created space with his movement and laid the groundwork for the opener by finding a way to pull apart Houston for the first time all night.
The home side took advantage of its uptick in confidence and incisiveness to swing the ball from left to right to create the opener. The tidy move ultimately caught the Dynamo's defensive shape in flux and funneled the ball to Sene on the right side of the penalty area. Sene collected and then smashed home the opener for his fifth goal of the season.
Agudelo lashed a half-volley over the bar as the Revs searched for a killer second, but Houston adjusted its formation from a 4-4-2 to a 3-5-2 and threw Cam Weaver into the fray to alter the calculus. The changes reaped immediate dividends through the equalizer in the final quarter of an hour.
Houston applied ample pressure with a direct move from back to front and claimed the benefits with a scuffed clearance after Weaver squared inside the penalty area. Boniek García collected and then slotted a wonderfully weighted ball to Bruin near the penalty spot. Bruin corralled neatly and thumped his eighth goal of the campaign off the underside of the crossbar to level the proceedings.
New England searched for the winner in the late stages with Agudelo and Sene both going close, but it never arrived to ensure both teams completed this dogged affair with a share of the spoils.
New England Revolution (11-11-8; 41 points) vs. Houston Dynamo (12-10-8; 44 points)
MLS regular season
September 28, 2013 – Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass.
New England: Saer Sene 5 (Lee Nguyen 6) 64
Houston: Will Bruin 8 (Boniek Garcia 5) 76
Houston Dynamo: Tally Hall; Kofi Sarkodie, Bobby Boswell, Jermaine Taylor, Corey Ashe; Boniek Garcia, Warren Creavalle (Cam Weaver 73), Ricardo Clark, Brad Davis (Jason Johnson 89); Will Bruin, Giles Barnes
Unused substitutes: Tyler Deric, Alexander Lopez, Servando Carrasco, Omar Cummings, Mike Chabala
New England Revolution: Matt Reis; Chris Tierney, Jose Goncalves, A.J. Soares, Andrew Farrell; Diego Fagundez, Lee Nguyen, Scott Caldwell, Kelyn Rowe, Saer Sene; Dimitry Imbongo (Juan Agudelo 62)
Unused substitutes: Bobby Shuttleworth, Darrius Barnes, Andy Dorman, Chad Barrett, Charlie Davies, Stephen McCarthy
Houston: Brad Davis (caution) 52
Referee: Edvin Jurisevic
Assistant Referees: Sean Hurd, Peter Balciunas
4th Official: Mathieu Bordeau