Nigel Brooks

Houston takes a big step with 2-0 win at Portland

The Houston Dynamo climbed a rung up the playoff ladder with a hard-fought 2-0 road win Friday night against the Portland Timbers. In the process, they dealt a major blow to Portland, which had been nipping at Houston’s heels in the postseason race.

For at least one night, the Dynamo jumped over New York, Columbus, and Kansas City into second place in the Eastern Conference with 46 points from 33 games. Portland, meanwhile, remains on the outside looking in with 40 points from its 32 contests.

With rain falling throughout the Timbers’ home finale in front of 20,323 fans at JELD-WEN Field, there was clearly no love lost between the two teams as they combined for 30 fouls and two yellow cards. After a back-and-forth first half hour, Houston got on the board in the 36th minute. A Lovel Palmer tackle on Carlo Costly at the left corner of the penalty area gave the Dynamo a free kick, and as they have all season, the men in orange were able to capitalize. Defender Andre Hainault got a touch on Brad Davis’ service, flicking the header past Portland goalkeeper Troy Perkins. The assist was the 15th of the season for Davis, tying him for the league lead.

The raw play continued in the second half as Houston midfielder Danny Cruz went hard into former teammate Mike Chabala, sending him sprawling to the turf. The play drew a yellow, and Chabala had to gather himself on the sidelines briefly before coming back in. Houston put home the capper in the 59th minute in spectacular fashion when Cruz drove a left-footed blast from 30 yards out into the top corner of the goal.

Portland’s desperate attempts to claw back into it went by the board when a Palmer cross in the 64th minute deflected off the foot of Costly. The ball headed toward the Dynamo goal but ricocheted off the post before Tally Hall knocked it away. Minutes later, Kenny Cooper pushed a clean header wide of the net. In the final seconds, Portland had one more opportunity to get on the board, but David Horst's header was knocked away by Hall right before the final whistle.

Portland (11-14-7) does possess a game in hand over Houston and Colorado. The Timbers will play at D.C. United on Wednesday before concluding the regular season Saturday at Real Salt Lake. Houston (11-9-13) wraps up its schedule on Sunday, October 23, against the LA Galaxy in the final regular season match at Robertson Stadium.

Houston Dynamo (11-9-13) vs. Portland Timbers (11-14-7)
October 14, 2011 -- JELD-WEN Field, Portland, OR

Scoring Summary:
HOU -- Andre Hainault 1 (Brad Davis 15) 36
HOU -- Danny Cruz 2 (Luiz Camargo 2) 59

Houston Dynamo -- Tally Hall, Andre Hainault, Bobby Boswell, Geoff Cameron, Corey Ashe, Danny Cruz, Adam Moffat, Luiz Camargo (Je-Vaughn Watson 77), Brad Davis (Colin Clark 74), Calen Carr (Will Bruin 81), Carlo Costly.
Substitutes Not Used: Brian Ching, Hunter Freeman, Jermaine Taylor, Tyler Deric.

Portland Timbers -- Troy Perkins, Lovel Palmer, Eric Brunner, Mamadou Danso, Mike Chabala (David Horst 66), Sal Zizzo (Jorge Perlaza 46), Jack Jewsbury, Diego Chara, Kalif Alhassan, Kenny Cooper (Bright Dike 74), Darlington Nagbe.
Substitutes Not Used: Eric Alexander, James Marcelin, Rodney Wallace, Jake Gleeson.

Misconduct Summary:
HOU -- Danny Cruz (caution; Reckless Foul) 51
HOU -- Je-Vaughn Watson (caution; Reckless Foul) 87

Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Referee's Assistants: Frank Anderson; Ian Anderson
4th Official: Alejandro Mariscal
Attendance: 20,323
Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-58-degrees

All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial