The Houston Dynamo continued to stamp their credentials as the top club in Major League Soccer, as the defending MLS Cup champions knocked off Mexican giant Club America 1-0 on Wednesday night at Robertson Stadium in the SuperLiga opener for both clubs.
Nate Jaqua scored Dynamo's only goal in the 41st minute, and the Dynamo defense continued to perform as they have been to record-setting levels in league play, making sure America were limited to few clear chances as the Orange moved to the top of Group B with the victory.
There were chances for both sides early on, but neither goalkeeper even had to handle the ball. In the seventh minute, Club America's Lucas Castroman took a shot from outside the penalty area that went high. The Dynamo went to the other end, and Craig Waibel let one fly from outside the area on the right, but it stayed wide right.
In the 12th minute, America's Oscar Rojas was well-placed in the middle of the area, but he too missed wide right. Four minutes later, Dynamo playmaker Dwayne De Rosario let loose a bullet from 35 yards out that also went wide right.
But from the outset the Dynamo looked to attack and started to pin America in their own end. In the 25th minute, Waibel sent a pass into the middle of the box where Jaqua was waiting, but Jaqua's header went wide right. Three minutes later, Brian Mullan tried to cross from the right flank into the center of the area where Jaqua was charging in for a header, but the cross was knocked clear by a diving Armando Navarrete. Stuart Holden picked up the ball and attempted a shot from the left side of the area, but his shot went wide of the far side.
The Orange continued to have America somewhat on the ropes. Jaqua again came close on a 35th-minute corner kick, but his header went well wide. From the restart, Mullan stole the ball and fired high from outside the restraining arc. Then in the 37th minute, from another corner, Patrick Ianni headed Holden's service right into the ground in front of the goalmouth, and Club America was able to clear.
The Dynamo pressure finally paid off in the 41st minute off a long throw-in from Waibel. The throw-in bounced across the box, and Holden picked it up in the left side of the area. He faked one defender and went toward the end line where he crossed the ball back toward the goal and found Jaqua on the right side of the goalmouth, who had only to tap it into the empty net in front of him.
Down a goal, Club America was spurred into action and won a free kick just outside the penalty arc, but Salvador Cabanas put the chance wide left. In first-half stoppage time, Eddie Robinson was booked by referee Samir Osman for a tackle from behind, and America's German Villa also was booked for dissent following Robinson's booking. Off the free kick, Frederico Insua fired a bullet from outside the area on the right that Onstad caught to end the first half.
In the 50th minute, Jaqua was robbed of his second goal of the game by Navarrete. From another corner kick from the left, Jaqua again got onto the end of it at the back post, but Navarrete was there to bat out his header. The ensuing corner kick was knocked out of the area to Ianni, who fired a bullet from the left, but Navarrete again made the save.
On the hour mark, Richard Mulrooney took a pass from Holden in the middle of the field and fired away from 35 yards out, but Navarrete kept it a 1-0 deficit with a diving save to his right. Onstad had not been asked to do much on the night, but Insua nearly pulled America level in the 65th minute by faking a Houston defender right and going left, but his shot from left of the penalty arc went right into the stomach of Onstad.
The Orange nearly tacked onto their lead in the 71st minute, once again through the air, but off a deflected Holden free kick, Jaqua could only get off a weak header that Navarrete easily caught. In the 78th minute, Cabanas was taken down while in the box, but there was no call from Osman.
There was to be no further answer from America, and in fact, the Dynamo should have added to their lead. In the 81st minute, Mullan sent in a cross from the right to Brian Ching right at the top of the six, but Ching's header went high. A minute later, De Rosario missed a shot high from the right edge of the area.
Houston looked like it had finally added the insurance goal in the 85th minute after Ngwenya took a pass from Mullan in front of the net and sidefooted home, but the flag went up for offside. A minute later, Ching once again went high from another header off a corner kick, but it ended up not being necessary as Dynamo held out for the vital victory.
Jeremy Rakes is a contributor to MLSnet.com.
Club América (0-1-0) vs. Houston Dynamo (1-0-0)
July 25, 2007 -- Robertson Stadium, Houston TX
SuperLiga -- Group B
HOU -- Nate Jaqua 1 (Stuart Holden 1) 41
Club América -- Armando Navarrete, Lucas Castroman (Rodrigo Lopez 49+), Duilio Davino, Ismael Rodriguez, Oscar Rojas, Alejandro Arguello, Federico Insua, Raul Mendoza, German Villa (Jose Mosqueda 78), Salvador Cabanas, Ricardo Rojas.
Substitutes Not Used: unavailable.
Houston Dynamo -- Pat Onstad, Craig Waibel, Patrick Ianni, Eddie Robinson, Wade Barrett, Brian Mullan, Richard Mulrooney, Dwayne De Rosario, Stuart Holden, Nate Jaqua (Brian Ching 75), Joseph Ngwenya.
Substitutes Not Used: unavailable.
HOU -- Eddie Robinson (caution) 46+
CA -- German Villa (caution) 48+
HOU -- Brian Mullan (caution) 55
CA -- Alejandro Arguello (caution) 61
CA -- Salvador Cabanas (caution) 80
CA -- Duilio Davino (caution) 91+
Referee: Samir Osman (EGY)
Referee's Assistants: unavailable
4th official: unavailable
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial