The Houston Dynamo were held to a 0-0 draw against Costa Rican champion Deportivo Saprissa in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions’ Cup semifinal Wednesday night at Robertson Stadium.
The Dynamo dominated possession and created plenty of chances but could not find a decisive final shot. Houston fired 17 shots for the game but only forced four saves from Saprissa goalkeeper Keilor Navas. At the other end, Dynamo goalkeeper Pat Onstad made seven saves to record his second Champions’ Cup shutout of the year.
Houston forwards Brian Ching and Franco Caraccio had most of the chances, and Ching’s failure to direct a wide open stoppage-time header on goal summed up the game for the Dynamo.
Ching had opened the game with a close chance as well, ripping a left-footed shot into the outside of the net in just the second minute. The Dynamo continued to press the game, and both Eddie Robinson and Caraccio were denied on corner kicks, Robinson by midfielder Try Bennett and Caraccio by Navas.
Despite Houston’s possession, Saprissa improved toward the end of the first half, and left midfielder Andres Nunez had several good chances. His best opportunity came in the 30th minute, when he cut back at the left edge of the penalty area and curled a right-footed shot toward the far corner, but Onstad turned it around the post with a full-stretch save.
The second half saw Houston send wave after wave of crosses and entry passes toward the penalty area, but the Dynamo could never connect in the final third of the field. Caraccio had two golden chances after 65 minutes, one after a Ricardo Clark block that Caraccio looped high. The other came on a one-on-one chance after a through ball from Richard Mulrooney, but a sliding Navas saved the Argentine’s chip.
Saprissa relied on veteran forward Ronald Gomez’s counter-attacking abilities and rarely troubled Onstad in the second half, managing just one shot due in part to the outstanding effort of Dynamo center back Eddie Robinson.
With the crowd on its feet, the Dynamo had a chance to earn the win in stoppage time when De Rosario bent a perfect ball to the top of the six-yard box, but Ching flashed his header wide, and Saprissa held on for the tie.
The Dynamo now face the daunting task of needing to beat Deportivo Saprissa in Costa Rica to advance to their first Champions’ Cup final.
Deportivo Saprissa vs. Houston Dynamo
April 02, 2008 -- Robertson Stadium, Houston TX
CONCACAF Champions' Cup -- Semifinals, Game 1
Deportivo Saprissa -- Keilor Navas, Gabriel Badilla (Bryan Jimenez 75), Jervis Drummond, Victor Cordero, Andres Nunez, Try Bennett, Armando Alonso (Michael Barrantes 81), Jose Luis Lopez, Celso Borges, Jairo Arrieta (Cesar Elizondo 63), Ronald Gomez.
Substitutes Not Used: Fausto Gonzalez, Alejandro Castro, Manfred Russell, Kendall Waston.
Houston Dynamo -- Pat Onstad, Patrick Ianni, Bobby Boswell, Eddie Robinson, Wade Barrett, Richard Mulrooney (Geoff Cameron 75), Ricardo Clark, Dwayne De Rosario, Corey Ashe, Brian Ching, Franco Caraccio (Chris Wondolowski 80).
Substitutes Not Used: Tony Caig, Kyle Brown, John Michael Hayden, Erik Ustruck, Craig Waibel.
HOU -- Bobby Boswell (caution; Reckless Foul) 70
SAP -- Michael Barrantes (caution; Delaying a Restart) 89
Referee: Courtney Campbell (JAM)
Referee's Assistants: Anthony Garwood (JAM); Ricardo Morgan (JAM)
4th official: Terry Vaughn (USA)
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial