Second-half goals from Brian Ching and Chris Wondolowski gave the Houston Dynamo an impressive 2-0 victory over Mexican side Pachuca on Thursday evening in their CONCACAF Champions' Cup semifinal first leg at Robertson Stadium. The match was originally scheduled for Wednesday but had to be moved following a power outage at the University of Houston.
Ching put the Dynamo on top in the 57th minute when he headed home a cross from Craig Waibel, while substitute Wondolowski added what could prove to be a crucial second goal just moments after coming into the game as a substitute. His cool finish allows the reigning MLS Cup champions a two-goal cushion heading into the return match next week against the Copa Nissan Sudamericana champions.
The Dynamo defense looked shaky in the game's earliest moments as the Mexican side surged forward in search of an early goal that ultimately never arrived. Luis Landin was dangerous for Pachuca, as was Christian Gimenez. Each had half-chances inside the first 10 minutes, but they did not trouble Zach Wells, who started for Houston in goal.
Andres Chitiva made a run right through the heart of the Dynamo defense in the 18th minute before firing a low shot from the top of the box wide of the mark. One minute later, Dynamo had their best chance of the opening period. Brad Davis whipped in an out-swinging corner kick with his left foot, which Kelly Gray met with a powerful header that went just over the crossbar.
Wells came up with a big save on Gimenez at the half-hour mark, rushing off his line to smother the Argentinean's shot from inside the penalty area. Landin probably should have given the visitors the lead with six minutes left in the half, but he was unable to get a shot off at the near post after latching on to a dangerous cross from the left flank.
The Dynamo had the first good scoring opportunity following the intermission after Ching was fouled just outside the penalty area. Davis took the ensuing free kick but fired it over the bar. Davis fed two dangerous corner kicks into the box just minutes later, the second of which resulted in a fierce shot by Ricardo Clark from some 20 yards, but it was off the mark. Then in the 57th minute, the breakthrough finally arrived.
Ching coasted into the center of the Pachuca penalty area unmarked, using a snap header to the lower right-hand corner of the goal to beat Miguel Calero and put the hosts on top. Waibel provided the assist with a cross from the right flank.
A mistake by Wells nearly gifted Pachuca the equalizer in the 61st minute. After coming well off his line to attempt to clear a long ball over the top, Wells put his weak header right on the feet of Chitiva, whose long lob would have found the back of the net if not for an alert goal-line clearance by Waibel. The Dynamo got away with another defensive miscue in the 72nd minute after Eddie Robinson gave the ball away in his own defensive third. However, Pachuca could not take advantage, as Waibel again was in the right place at the right time, deflecting the attempted cross away from danger.
Houston coach Dominic Kinnear made a pair of substitutions late in the game, inserting Dwayne De Rosario for Paul Dalglish and Wondolowski for Ching. The move quickly paid off as the pair of newcomers combined to give Houston its crucial insurance goal.
De Rosario started the play with a well-weighted ball down the left flank for Davis, who found Wondolowski unmarked in the penalty area. A simple side-footed finish was all that was needed from Wondolowski to extend the lead and secure the victory for the hosts. Alejandro Moreno nearly made the advantage three in the waning seconds, but Calero pushed his effort wide of the post and match ended with a 2-0 scoreline.
The Dynamo will visit Pachuca on April 5 for the return match, and the match will be carried live on Fox Soccer Channel. The winner of the two-game aggregate goals series will face off with the winner of D.C. United's semifinal series against CD Guadalajara for the Champions' Cup title. The tournament's champion will then take part in December's FIFA Club World Cup in Japan.
Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com.
Pachuca vs. Houston Dynamo
March 15, 2007 -- Robertson Stadium, Houston TX
CONCACAF Champions' Cup -- Semifinals, Game 1
HOU -- Brian Ching 1 (Craig Waibel 1) 57
HOU -- Chris Wondolowski 1 (Brad Davis 1, Dwayne De Rosario 1) 84
Pachuca -- Miguel Calero, Paul Aguilar (Gabriel Caballero 75), Leobardo Lopez, Fernando Salazar (Damian Alvarez 62), Aquivaldo Mosquera, Fausto Pinto, Jamie Correa, Gerardo Rodriguez, Luis Landin (Juan Carlos Cacho 46), Andres Chitiva, Christian Gimenez.
Substitutes Not Used: Omar Arellano, Marvin Gabiel Cabrera, Edgar Meliton Hernandez, Marco Ivan Perez.
Houston Dynamo -- Zach Wells, Kelly Gray, Eddie Robinson, Craig Waibel, Wade Barrett, Brian Mullan, Ricardo Clark, Alejandro Moreno, Brad Davis, Brian Ching (Chris Wondolowski 82), Paul Dalglish (Dwayne De Rosario 76).
Substitutes Not Used: Pat Onstad, Ryan Cochrane, Kevin Goldthwaite, Stuart Holden, Patrick Ianni.
PAC -- Fernando Salazar (caution; Reckless Foul) 45
PAC -- Aquivaldo Mosquera (caution; Pushing, Holding) 53
HOU -- Brad Davis (caution; Pushing, Holding) 68
PAC -- Christian Gimenez (caution; Dissent) 78
Referee: Neal Brizan (T&T)
Referee's Assistants: Kermit Quisenberry (USA); Corey Rockwell (USA)
4th Official: Alex Prus
Weather: Clear-and-80 degrees
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial