HOUSTON – The Houston Dynamo have been a different team since the return of Ricardo Clark, but on Friday night he may have made his most tangible impact to date, in a 1-0 win over the Montreal Impact.
The former US international scored the lone goal of the game just six minutes in and the Dynamo held firm for the remaining 84 to claim the three points, increasing their total to 47 and moving them one ahead of the Impact, who drop to fourth place but have a game in hand on their Friday hosts.
The goal came after some strong buildup play that saw Boniek García find Giles Barnes at the top of the box. The forward chested a perfect ball into the path of the onrushing Clark, who cut back to create space for a shot that curled away from goalkeeper Troy Perkins and nestled in the back of the net.
The early salvo looked like a sign of things to come, but ultimately proved to be one of the few highlights in a stagnant first half.
The half ended with just six shots as the two clubs engaged in a battle for midfield supremacy. Without the services of Alessandro Nesta, Hernán Bernardello and midfield fulcrum Patrice Bernier – a late scratch – the Impact struggled to muster an attack as Houston put their stamp on the game, mainly through the play of Clark, Garcia and Warren Creavalle.
It took Montreal 45 minutes to muster their first good chance off the foot of Felipe Martins, but his shot from distance was deflected by Tally Hall and the rebound came to nothing as the half ended without excitement.
Houston changed the flow of things early in the second half. After Clark fired an early shot off target, Houston put the Impact’s goal under intense pressure in the minutes to follow.
In the span of two minutes Brad Davis got two shots off, the first after a great run by Garcia down the middle that was stopped only by a Perkins kick save and the second a dangerous free kick that the Impact ‘keeper pushed over the bar.
The Impact were happy to escape that flurry without any further damage, and nearly took advantage in the 69th minute when second-half sub Andrew Wenger brought life to the Montreal attack. First he set up Davy Arnaud for a shot in box that was blocked by Bobby Boswell but sparked fervent penalty shouts from the Impact after it appeared to strike the defender's arm.
Minutes later, Andrés Romero put Wenger free on goal, and only a sprawling Hall saw the Dynamo save their advantage, and ultimately a valuable win.
Houston will stay home and take on Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday night with a chance to leapfrog that team into second place in the East, while the Impact next host the New England Revolution October 12.
Houston Dynamo (13-10-8; 47 points) vs. Montreal Impact (13-10-7; 46 points)
MLS regular season
October 4, 2013 – BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, TX
Houston: Ricardo Clark 4 (Giles Barnes 4, Boniek Garcia 6) 6
Houston Dynamo: Tally Hall; Kofi Sarkodie, Bobby Boswell, Jermaine Taylor, Corey Ashe; Boniek García, Warren Creavalle (Cam Weaver 73), Ricardo Clark, Brad Davis (Andrew Driver 86), (Cam Weaver 79), Giles Barnes (Omar Cumming 88)
Unused substitutes: Tyler Deric, Eric Brunner, Servando Carrasco, Alexander López
Montreal Impact: Troy Perkins; Jeb Brovsky, Matteo Ferrari, Wandrille Lefevre, Hassoun Camara; Collen Warner, Davy Arnaud (Maxim Tissot 82), Justin Mapp, Felipe Martins (Sanna Nyassi 65), Andrés Romero; Marco Di Vaio (Andrew Wenger 62)
Unused substitutes: Evan Bush, Zakaria Messoudi, Karl Ouimette, Blake Smith
Montreal: Jeb Brovsky (caution) 31
Montreal: Hassoun Camara (caution) 32
Houston: Warren Creavalle (caution) 63
Montreal: Matteo Ferrari (caution) 73
Referee: Drew Fischer
Assistant Referees: Claudio Badea, Kevin Klinger
4th Official: Alejandro Mariscal