After a year of inactivity, Omar Cummings came through for the Houston Dynamo, coming off the bench to score an injury-time equalizer that gave the home team a 2-2 result against the New York Red Bulls.
Trailing 2-0 at halftime, Houston gained a numerical advantage when Jamison Olave earned a straight red card for a rash challenge on Cummings, who has only recently returned to full speed after an injury-plagued 2013 campaign. And when Andrew Driver earned a corner in the game's dying moments, Cummings – who came on in the 62nd minute for Giles Barnes – delivered.
Brad Davis’ corner kick found the head of Bobby Boswell, whose header was saved by New York goalkeeper Luis Robles. But the Red Bulls custodian failed to keep hold of the ball and Cummings was in the right spot to touch home the equalizer from point-blank range, revitalizing Houston's hopes as the series shifts to Red Bull Arena Wednesday night (7 p.m. CT; CSN Houston, Univision Deportes).
Cummings' goal capped a stirring comeback from a rough first half for the Orange. First Ricardo Clark threw Houston a lifeline in the 51st minute, latching on to a poor clearance from Red Bulls left back David Carney. Clark found himself alone at the top of the New York penalty box and skimmed a shot through the legs of Olave that caught the Red Bulls off guard and cut the score to 2-1.
In the 65th minute the game and series was jolted when Olave was shown a straight red card for a reckless scything tackle from behind on Cummings. There was no doubt for referee Ricardo Salazar, as he immediately reached for his back pocket, putting New York down a man for the final 25 minutes and ruling Olave out of the return leg in New York.
After weathering some early energy from Houston in the game's opening moments, Cahill continued his role as a Dynamo nemesis, getting the scoring started with a trademark header in the 22nd minute.
Cahill shed Dynamo center back Eric Brunner in the box and made a Designated Player connection with a cross from Thierry Henry to grab the lead. Henry’s sublime delivery teased goalkeeper Tally Hall off his line enough to create an opening for Cahill and the Australian international made no mistake.
New York took control on a second goal came from their stars, as Henry tracked back to the edge of his box to start a rapid counterattack that ran through Cahill. The Australian played Eric Alexander in the box and the midfielder cut back on Brunner and beat Hall at the near post for a 2-0 lead.
Houston pressed for a goal after giving up the twin setbacks and Will Bruin went close in the 42nd minute. The ever-active Boniek García played the forward into space, but New York center back Ibrahim Sekagya recovered to force him wide and off balance, and Bruin's shot ended in the stands.
After Clark’s goal Houston pushed to turn the tables with renewed pressure on the Red Bulls. Giles Barnes tried for the spectacular some 10 minutes after Clark’s goal with a dipping shot from 35 yards out but it was handled well by goalkeeper Luis Robles.
After Olave’s ejection, Brunner came close to equalizing in the 78th minute but could not steer his header on target after another excellent corner-kick delivery from Davis.
In the end, Cummings' goal was enough to leave the series finely balanced ahead of the decisive second leg at Red Bull Arena.
Houston Dynamo vs. New York Red Bulls
MLS Cup Playoffs – Eastern Conference Semifinals – Leg 1
November 3, 2013 – BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, TX
New York: Tim Cahill 1 (Thierry Henry 1) 22
New York: Eric Alexander (Tim Cahill 1, Dax McCarty 1) 32
Houston: Ricardo Clark 1 (unassisted) 51
Houston: Omar Cummings 1 (unassisted) 90+2
Houston Dynamo: Tally Hall; Kofi Sarkodie, Bobby Boswell, Eric Brunner (Cam Weaver 85), Corey Ashe; Boniek Garcia, Warren Creavalle (Andrew Driver 70), Ricardo Clark, Brad Davis; Giles Barnes (Omar Cummings 61), Will Bruin
Unused substitutes: Tyler Deric, Mike Chabala, Alexander Lopez, Servando Carrasco
New York Red Bulls: Luis Robles; Markus Holgersson, Jamison Olave, Ibrahim Sekagya, David Carney; Eric Alexander (Bradley Wright-Phillips 82), Dax McCarty, Peguy Luyindula (Lloyd Sam 73), Jonathan Steele (Brandon Barklage 68); Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill
Unused substitutes: Ryan Meara, Kosuke Kimura, Matt Miazga, Fabian Espindola
NY: Jonathan Steele (caution) 36
NY: Thierry Henry (caution) 54
HOU: Boniek Garcia (caution) 62
NY: Jamison Olave (ejection) 65
NY: Brandon Barklage (caution) 84
NY: Tim Cahill (caution) 84
Referee: Ricardo Salazar
Referees’ Assistants: Ian Anderson, Corey Parker
4th Official: Jose Carlos Rivero