Calen Carr made a splash in his return to the Houston starting XI on Wednesday night, notching the first brace of his career to push the Dynamo past first-place Sporting Kansas City 2-1 at BBVA Compass Stadium.
In his first start since June 16, the right winger was the ultimate opportunist finding the right end of service from Will Bruin and Brad Davis, players who have served as goal scorers for the Dynamo in recent weeks.
The win pushes the Dynamo’s unbeaten streak at BBVA Compass Stadium to nine (6-0-3) and is their second win in a row over one of the East’s top two clubs. The loss was Sporting's first in the month of July.
Carr’s big night started in the 25th minute when the winger broke the ice after a nimble run from Bruin capped a 23-pass sequence. The hulking striker took an Andre Hainault ball into the box with All-Star Aurélien Collin on his left shoulder, passed up on an overlapping run by Mac Kandji and slotted a pass to Carr who had little trouble slotting home his first MLS goal of the season.
The slight winger turned up big again in the 79th minute as the Dynamo were pushing for a late winner, thighing a Davis low cross in goal. After taking three touches and setting Davis up out wide, Carr made a frantic run in the box, colliding with the left-midfielder’s ball and watched it trickle by Nielsen after Matt Besler deflected.
After the first goal, Houston continued to control the flow of the match until the 41st minute. After taking a Peterson Joseph ball down the right, Kei Kamara hit a curling ball into Teal Bunbury, who was fouled from behind by Hainault, prompting referee Mark Kadlecik to point to the spot.
Kamara took his spot kick and knocked home a right-footed shot past Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall, making him one of four players to tally at least seven goals in each of the last three seasons and stopping Houston’s shutout streak at 356 minutes.
If the goals were not enough, Carr’s goal came in a second half where the Dynamo played with a man advantage due to a foul the winger drew in the waning minutes of the first half giving them a man advantage for the second straight week. SKC’s Joseph was red-carded for a sweeping, two-footed tackle from behind to Carr, who is just coming back from a hamstring injury, earning the ire of Kadlecik.
Despite having the man advantage for a half, the Dynamo found it tough to break down a compact and well-organized Sporting defense to begin the second 45 minutes, prompting head coach Dominic Kinnear to introduce Brian Ching in the 61st minute to go to a 4-4-2 and push for a goal by pumping service into the box.
Led by a standout performance from Collin, Sporting were able to lock the space in front of Nielsen and not let Houston have many looks on frame, unable to get one clear look on goal until Carr’s second did away with any chance of SKC sharing the spoils.
Houston improves to 8-5-7 and draws even with the Chicago Fire for fourth in the East with 31 points. They'll host Montreal on Saturday. SKC falls to 11-6-3 and will return home to Livestrong Sporting Park with a one-point lead over the New York Red Bulls in the East as they face the New England Revolution, also Saturday.
Houston Dynamo (8-5-7) vs. Sporting Kansas City (11-6-3)
July 18, 2012 BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, Texas
HOU: Calen Carr 1 (Will Bruin 2, Andre Hainault 3) 25
SKC: Kei Kamara 7 (penalty) 42
HOU: Calen Carr 2 (Brad Davis 6) 79
Houston Dynamo: Tally Hall; Andre Hainault, Bobby Boswell, Jermaine Taylor, Corey Ashe; Boniek Garcia, Warren Creavalle (Luiz Camargo 68), Brad Davis; Will Bruin (Brian Ownby 78), Macoumba Kandji (Brian Ching 60)
Substitutes not used: Tyler Deric, Nathan Sturgis, Je-Vaughn Watson, Alex Dixon
Sporting Kansas City: Jimmy Nielsen, Michael Harrington, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic (Chance Myers 79); Peterson Joseph, Jacob Peterson, Paulo Nagamura, Kei Kamara, Teal Bunbury (C.J. Sapong 45), Jacob Peterson (Bobby Convey 82)
Subs not used: Eric Kronberg, Neven Markovic, Julio Cesar, Soony Saad
HOU: Macoumba Kandji (caution) 8
SKC: Peterson Joseph (ejection) 45+2
Referee: Mark Kadlecik
Referee's Assistants: Greg Barkey, Brian Dunn
4th Official: Jasen Anno