Ricardo Clark helped pump life into the Houston Dynamo’s playoff chances Saturday night at BBVA Compass Stadium, scoring in his first game back from a hamstring injury to push the club to a 2-0 win over the nine-men Vancouver Whitecaps.
In his first start after missing four games, Clark extended his career-high total for a season to six goals, scoring in the 33rd minute. Raúl Rodríguez tacked on the second on a corner-kick header to seal the victory, breaking a three-match winless streak to move to within three points of the playoff line in the Western Conference with 35 points from 27 games.
Vancouver, meanwhile, were unable to take advantage of Supporters’ Shield leading LA Galaxy’s loss Friday night and remain in second place in the West and Shield standings with 45 points from 27 matches – no doubt thanks in part to both Kendall Waston and Matias Laba being sent off for each seeing yellow twice.
The Dynamo’s game-winning goal came when Sheanon Williams sent a ball to the near post where Erick "Cubo" Torres – making his first start for Houston – redirected it to the crashing Clark. The midfielder slid through the ball, and it trickled its way across the line for a 1-0 Dynamo lead.
Things were made tougher for Vancouver in the 56th minute when Waston was shown the door after picking up his second yellow card for a hard tackle on Giles Barnes. Five minutes earlier Waston saw yellow for a foul from behind on Torres at midfield.
As if that was not enough, Laba saw the same fate in the 64th minute. After fouling Barnes in the 27th minute to pick up his first caution, Laba came in hard on Williams to earn the early shower.
Up two men, Houston took control late and after having two good looks at goal, Rodríguez capped his return from missing two of the last three games with a heel contusion with an 88th-minute goal.
Vancouver were the aggressor early, exploiting their pace to come away with their first dangerous chance in the 25th minute. Darren Mattocks raced by Rodríguez to get in on goal. But Luis Garrido, who came in a minute earlier for the injured DaMarcus Beasley, who left with a left leg injury, raced in to help deflect Mattocks’ shot out for a corner.
Minutes after Clark’s goal the Whitecaps tried to answer quickly. Alex, who slid into Beasley’s left back spot, beat Mattocks to a cross at the back post to give Vancouver a corner kick in the 38th minute. On the corner, Jordan Smith squared up a solid header that was low, but Brad Davis kick-saved it off the line to keep the Dynamo lead.
Mattocks had no shortage of attempts as he used his speed to get into good spots all night. He was foiled again in the 41st minute as Houston goalkeeper Tyler Deric just beat to a ball at the corner of the box to save his chip attempt. Three minutes after Waston was ejected, Mattocks jumped just in front of David Horst to get on the end of a Russell Teibert cross but skied his header.
But after Vancouver went down to nine men, Houston were able to wrest control of the match and salt away the much-needed win.
Vancouver are back in action when they play host to the Colorado Rapids on Sept. 9, while the Dynamo return to action Sept. 12 at home against Real Salt Lake.
Houston Dynamo (9-10-8; 35 points) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC (14-10-3; 45 points)
MLS regular season
August 29, 2015 – BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, Texas
Houston Dynamo: Ricardo Clark 6 (Sheanon Williams 2, Erick Torres 1) 34
Houston Dynamo: Raúl Rodríguez 2 (Brad Davis 8) 87
Houston Dynamo: Tyler Deric; Sheanon Williams, David Horst, Raúl Rodríguez, DaMarcus Beasley (Luis Garrido 24); Brad Davis ©, Ricardo Clark (Nathan Sturgis 72), Alex Lima, Giles Barnes; Will Bruin, Erick Torres (Boniek García 66)
Substitutes Not Used: Joe Willis, A.J. Cochran, Leonel Miranda, Mauro Manotas
Vancouver Whitecaps: David Ousted ©; Jordan Smith, Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, Christian Dean; Deybi Flores (Sam Adekugbe 60), Matías Laba, Russell Teibert, Mauro Rosales, Kekuta Manneh (Octavio Rivero 69); Darren Mattocks (Gershon Koffie 69)
Substitutes Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Pedro Morales, Cristian Techera, Robert Earnshaw
VAN: Matías Laba (caution) 27
VAN: Kendall Waston (caution) 51
VAN: Kendall Waston (ejection) 56
VAN: Matías Laba (ejection) 64
Referee: Kevin Stott
Assistant Referees: Adam Wienckowski, Cameron Blanchard
Fourth Official: Mark Kadlecik