HOUSTON – Set pieces have been productive for Ricardo Clark this season and Saturday night one separated the Houston Dynamo from the Montreal Impact in a 3-2 win.
Clark’s game-winning goal was his fourth of the season – all off which have come from dead balls – and was born of opportunism. As everyone piled into the middle of the box to get to Brad Davis’ corner, Houston defender David Horst headed the ball down to the midfielder waiting alone at the back post. Clark corralled the ball off his chest with his first touch and then emphatically side-volleyed it into the goal with his second to claim the crucial three points for his team.
The win adds another jolt to Houston’s burgeoning playoff hopes, as the Dynamo claimed their third victory in four games. They now sit on 31 points, only three points out of the final playoff spot in the East. Despite a two-goal effort, the Impact’s tough season continues as they remain on 20 points for the campaign.
The teams traded goals in the first half through Giles Barnes and Dilly Duka, but the game really sprung to life after the restart when the Impact’s latest signing, Ignacio Piatti, continued his hot start in MLS. The Argentine put Montreal in the lead in the 56th minute as he and fellow Designated Player Marco Di Vaio punished the middle of Houston’s defense with deft combination play.
Dynamo center back Horst stepped to Di Vaio who corralled a long ball near the center circle. Knowing there was space behind the Dynamo defense, he played a slick ball through to Piatti, who blitzed past the defense with a deep lying run. Horst made up ground on Piatti as he came through on goal, but not before Piatti put it past goalkeeper Tyler Deric to give the Impact a 2-1 lead.
But it was Houston’s own import, Barnes, who left the lasting impression on the game, however. With the Dynamo missing leading scorer Will Bruin due to a right foot sprain, the Brit stepped up, scoring his second of the game shortly after Montreal took the lead with a classy left-footed finish from a low Omar Cummings cross.
The equalizer visibly sparked the home team, and four minutes later Clark popped up to score the winner, giving Houston the momentum they desperately need for the playoff push over the season’s remaining eight games. The win is all the more satisfying for the Dynamo, who won the game while replacing four starters – goalkeeper Tally Hall, Bruin, Kofi Sarkodie (suspended due to yellow card accumulation) and Jermaine Taylor (concussion) - from last week.
Montreal will host the LA Galaxy next Saturday as Houston welcomes fellow playoff contender the Columbus Crew.
Houston Dynamo (9-13-4; 31 points) vs. Montreal Impact (5-16-5; 20 points)
MLS regular season
September 6, 2014 – BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, Texas
Houston: Giles Barnes 6 (unassisted) 30
Montreal: Dilly Duka 2 (Felipe Martins 5) 40
Montreal: Ignacio Piatti 3 (Marco Di Vaio 3) 55
Houston: Giles Barnes 7 (Omar Cummings 2) 62
Houston: Ricardo Clark 4 (David Horst 1, Brad Davis 9) 65
Houston Dynamo: Tyler Deric; Corey Ashe, David Horst, AJ Cochran, DaMarcus Beasley; Boniek Garcia, Luis Garrido, Ricardo Clark, Brad Davis (Andrew Driver 83), Giles Barnes, Omar Cummings (Brian Ownby 77)
Substitutes Not Used: Michael Lisch, Eric Brunner, Servando Carrasco, Alex Lopez
Montreal Impact: Evan Bush; Eric Miller, Matteo Ferrari (Heath Pearce 46), Wandrille Lefevre, Krzysztof Krol (Maxim Tissot 67); Calum Mallace (Jack McInerney 73), Felipe Martins; Andres Romero, Dilly Duka, Ignacio Piatti; Marco Di Vaio
Substitutes Not Used: Troy Perkins, Mamadou Danso, Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare, Anthony Jackson-Hamel
MTL: Felipe Martins (caution) 71
Referee: Fotiz Bazakos
Referee’s assistants: Chris Strickland, Matthew Nelson
Fourth official: Ismail Elfath