Coming down the stretch, the Houston Dynamo were in need of a goal. Trailing after a pearl of a free kick from D.C. United’s Chris Rolfe found the back of the net, the Dynamo were searching for justification in an entertaining game during which they enjoyed their share of chances.
And for the second straight week, Ricardo Clark was the answer.
After D.C. goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra pawed away a shot in the 65th minute, an alert Clark crashed the box and slammed home the rebound. The goal earned Houston a share of the spoils in a 1-1 draw at RFK Stadium, and gave Clark, who is playing in a more advanced position these days, his second tally of the season.
“I think it’s extremely important for us,” Brad Davis told MLSsoccer.com about Clark getting forward. “Rico’s in the middle of the park and that’s one of the things we want out of him. We know how honest he is defensively, but you want him to be able to get up the park and get close to the forwards and get those types of chances and that’s what he did.”
Clark’s pouncing goal makes it back-to-back weeks with tallies from sharp shooting inside the box. The traditionally defensive-minded central midfielder has pushed higher up this season, and on Saturday he balanced his time between supporting the forward line and breaking up attacks.
“He’s such a fit lad every time he comes on the grass and he can get forward and get a goal,” head coach Owen Coyle told MLSsoccer.com by phone after the game. “Of course we always encourage him to get forward.
“I have to say it comes on the back of an outstanding team performance,” Coyle continued. “We’re disappointed tonight because we’re only leaving with one point. We were outstanding tonight.”
Clark punctuated a complete attacking game from the Dynamo. A week after a strong final 20 minutes led to a three-goal win, the Dynamo were aggressive start to finish in the attack and not scared to push forward at the risk of being exposed. Houston’s defense held up, only beaten by Rolfe’s splendid free kick.
What resulted was a consistent flow of good chances (16 total shots, including five on goal) from a variety of players, including Clark, Giles Barnes, Alex Lopez – who started in place of the injured Boniek Garcia – and second-half substitute Will Bruin.
Bruin’s work was evident during his time on the field and led to Clark’s goal after the forward contorted his body to create a good shot that led to the loose ball. Introducing Bruin in place of midfielder Luis Garrido was “about risk and reward", according to Coyle, and Davis pointed out that Bruin’s work with Barnes allowed the Houston midfield to push up the field and create chances.
“To me I just see so much potential in this team,” Davis said. “We just want to be able to play from minute one to minute 90. Overall, honestly, it was a good performance. … I thought we had them on their heels and it was a game we could’ve won.”
Added Coyle: “Some of our play tonight was terrific. I was obviously delighted with the way we went at it from start to finish. We certainly felt we merited three points.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.