Set pieces have become one of the Houston Dynamo’s calling cards in 2015. Saturday night in Portland they betrayed the Dynamo in a 2-0 loss.
Three set pieces were the story at Providence Park, as Houston fell prey to the Timbers twice from dead balls, first when Maximiliano Urruti scored a perfectly placed looping header and then when David Horst conceded a penalty kick for a foul on a set piece play in the second half, which Gaston Fernandez converted.
Adding to their woes was a Raúl Rodríguez goal off a set piece waved off due to a foul by Ricardo Clark. The Spaniard lost his man on the free kick attempt and struck home what looked like a go-ahead goal. Instead of celebrating, however, Clark was whistled for a foul for obstructing Jorge Villafana. The call drew the ire of Dynamo head coach Owen Coyle after the game.
“We scored a perfectly good goal to put us 1-0 in front. It was ruled out. For me, I’ve watched it back, so certainly mysterious circumstances, that’s for sure, and then a very soft penalty [conceded],” Coyle said.
“The Portland Timbers are a very good side. We knew that we would certainly have to be at our best and when it’s all said and done I think things conspired against us, because as much as Portland had some pressure at times I don’t think my goalkeeper had a save in the game.”
In a cruel turn of fate, Rodríguez lost Urruti on the goal that gave the Timbers a first-half lead.
That lead was doubled when Horst was called for fouling Norberto Paparetto in the box on a set piece. The former Timbers center back wrapped his arms around the Argentine and referee Baldomero Toledo pointed to the spot. But the Dynamo did not agree with the call.
“I’ll have to look at the tapes. I don’t know. If they’re going to call [the foul on Clark] then they can’t call the [penalty kick] against us,” said captain DaMarcus Beasley. “I mean the referee was very inconsistent. If you’re going to call that a foul then you can’t call the other one a foul. It’s just things like that where those little margins don’t help our team but we can’t rely on the referee to bail us out.”
To be fair, Houston did not do themselves many favors over the first 70 minutes. The rough set piece luck exacerbated a game where Houston struggled to create chances for the first hour without playmakers Giles Barnes (international duty) and Brad Davis (knee bruise). Houston struggled to find a flow and create chances. Their best chance came late when Clark acrobatically persisted on a bicycle kick that struck the crossbar.
On the whole, Houston struggled to grab the game until late when the Timbers had put it out of reach.
“Very disappointing. I felt that we didn’t play well the whole game, not just the two mistakes we made,” Beasley said. “From back to front we were soft. We gave the ball away in bad areas. Just all-in-all a bad game.
"I’m not pointing fingers at anybody. Collectively, as a whole team, we weren’t good enough tonight. They punished us and they got the win.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.