WASHINGTON - D.C. United met the Houston Dynamo on Saturday night needing a at least a point to keep pace with the Eastern-Conference-leading New York Red Bulls. The Dynamo were looking for points of their own, eager to follow up last week’s positive result at Montreal and climb a bit higher in the West.
The two teams ended up with a point a piece from the encounter, playing to an entertaining 1-1 draw in front of 13,047 at RFK Stadium. Chris Rolfe opened the scoring for D.C. United with a superb free kick in the first half, but it was negated by a rebounded effort from Ricardo Clark.
Houston set the tone early, giving backup goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra — filling in for an injured Bill Hamid and making his first start for United since an early-season CCL drubbing at the hands of Alajuelense — a chance to calm his nerves. In the sixth minute, Houston forward Giles Barnes sent in a pacy drive from 22 yards out but Dykstra did well to push the deflected effort wide. Less than a minute later, Honduran national team player Alexander López sent in a similar effort that trickled wide of the near post.
Dykstra did well again in the 13th minute when former US national team fullback DaMarcus Beasley combined with Clark in the box. Clark’s effort from 15 yards out found its way directly into the goalkeeper's arms.
United saw little of the ball in the game’s opening half hour, but 36 minutes in, their first true scoring opportunity would prove to be their most valuable.
Jairo Arrieta used a nifty run to draw a foul about 22 yards from goal, giving D.C. United a prime chance at a set-piece strike. Rolfe, Taylor Kemp and Davy Arnaud all positioned themselves over the ensuing free kick. Kemp ran over it before Rolfe struck a venomous, curling effort just inside the upper 90 at the near post. Even at full extension, Dynamo keeper Tyler Deric had no chance.
Houston took one last stab at equalizing in the first half of stoppage time when Kofi Sarkodie hit a cross that cruised dangerously across the area and only barely eluded the outstretched foot of Clark inside the six-yard box.
D.C. came out on the front foot in the game’s second stanza. Just two minutes after halftime, Arrieta layed a ball off for former Union midfielder Michael Farfan at the top of the box. Farfan’s attempt at goal was turned away by a diving Deric.
In the 60th minute, Houston very nearly equalized. Lopez dribbled down the right flank, turned and sent a cross into the path of Barnes, whose one-timed effort struck the base of the near post.
A minute later, the Dynamo found the correct side of the post. Brad Davis sent a ball in from the far side corner, one that Will Bruin did well to head goalwards. Dykstra was up to the task, making an excellent reflex save to push the ball away from goal, but Clark was right there on the rebound, hammering it home from six yards out.
Dykstra delivered again minutes later, making himself big and pushing away a point-blank attempt by Sarkodie in the 78th.
Houston will regroup and return home for an encounter with Sporting Kansas City next Saturday night. D.C. are preparing for a slightly longer hike — they’ll travel cross-continent for their match-up with the Vancouver Whitecaps later that same evening.