The Houston Dynamo dropped a tough 1-0 decision to Columbus Crew SC Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium after playing to a scoreless stalemate for more than 90 minutes on the road.
A stoppage-time goal from forward Gyasi Zardes gave the home side the win. Zardes got behind Houston’s back line to chest down a cross from midfielder Harrison Afful and slot a right-footed shot under a sliding effort from Dynamo goalkeeper Joe Willis. Houston appealed for an offside call on the play, and referee Mark Geiger went to his earpiece to check with the Video Assistant, but ultimately decided not to have a second look at it himself and ruled it a valid goal.
Willis finished with four saves in the contest, including a pair of massive saves in one-on-one situations in the second half. Willis was one of four players, along with midfielder Boniek García and defenders Adolfo Machado and Andrew Wenger, who played the full 90 minutes less than 72 hours after playing 120 minutes in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Semifinal on Wednesday night.
Despite playing on short rest against an opponent who came off a bye week, the Dynamo played Columbus even in virtually every statistical category. The teams finished even on shots (13 each), shots on goal (five), corner kicks (5-4 in favor of Columbus) and fouls (Houston had 11 to Columbus’ 10).
Houston created the first scoring opportunity in the 10th minute on a counterattack. Midfielder Eric Alexander sparked the attack when he won the ball 30 yards from his own goal and quickly fired a long ball down the wing to forward Romell Quioto. Quioto turned his defender and raced into the penalty area, where he got off a low right-footed shot that was saved by Columbus goalkeeper Zack Steffen.
Quioto again got free for a shot through traffic from the top of the penalty area in the 18th minute, but Steffen was well-positioned to catch the shot.
Columbus nearly jumped on top in the 30th minute when midfielder Pedro Santos got off a left-footed blast from 25 yards that nicked off the right post of Willis’ net. Willis appeared to get a finger to the shot to push it just wide enough to catch the post. Willis was well positioned three minutes later when he easily collected a shot from distance off the boot of Santos.
Willis came up huge early in the second half when three Crew SC attackers got behind Houston’s back line off a pass from midfielder Mike Grella. Grella slipped a ball to All-Star midfielder Federico Higuain, who got of a left-footed shot from 15 yards, but the Houston goalkeeper was perfectly positioned to parry the shot away.
Forward Mauro Manotas came close to putting the Dynamo out front in the 59th minute after a brilliant solo run from near midfield into the penalty area, where his right-footed shot force Steffen to dive low to the near post to push the ball wide for a corner.
Willis made himself big once again in the 61st minute to stop Higuain after he got free on the right side of the penalty area thanks to a through pass from winger Justin Meram. Higuain blasted a right-footed shot from just outside the six-yard box, but Willis came off his line to cut down the angle and deflected the ball out for a corner with his chest.
Steffen kept the Dynamo out again in the 72nd minute with a diving save of a volley from Wenger. Wenger’s shot came off of a corner kick as the second ball fell to him at the top of the penalty area, but Steffen was able to get low to push it away at his far post.
Manotas had a good look on goal through a counterattack in the 77th minute when he led a three-man fast break from midfield. With four Crew SC defenders blocking his way, the Colombian aimed a curling right-footed shot for the top right corner of the goal, but the shot sailed slightly high and wide of the target.
Columbus nearly found the breakthrough in the 82nd when substitute Edward Opoku whipped in a cross from the right wing and Zardes got a foot to it, but placed his shot just wide as he was pressured by Machado.
Dynamo forward Ronaldo Peña had one final look at goal after Zardes’ score, unleashing a curling right-footed shot from 20 yards toward the upper right corner of the goal, but Steffen was there to catch the shot and kill off the match.
The Dynamo return home on Saturday, August 18 when they host Real Salt Lake. Houston will honor club legend Bobby Boswell on Homecoming Night. The match is slated for an 8 p.m. CDT kickoff at BBVA Compass Stadium, and tickets are available starting at $24 at HoustonDynamo.com, by phone at 713-276-4625 or at the BBVA Compass Stadium box office.
Columbus Crew SC (11-7-6; 35 pts.) 1-0 Houston Dynamo (7-10-6; 27 pts.)
MLS Regular Season Week 24
Saturday, August 11, 2018 – MAPFRE Stadium – Columbus, Ohio
CLB: Gyasi Zardes 14 (Harrison Afful 5) 90+1
Columbus Crew SC: Zack Steffen; Harrison Afful, Jonathan Mensah, Gastón Sauro, Milton Valenzuela (Edward Opoku 80); Artur, Wil Trapp ©; Pedro Santos, Federico Higuain (Patrick Mullins 75), Mike Grella (Justin Meram 60); Gyasi Zardes
Unused subs: Jon Kempin, Lalas Abubakar, Ricardo Clark, Héctor Jiménez
Total shots: 13 (Pedro Santos 4); Shots on goal: 5 (Federico Higuain, Pedro Santos 2); Fouls: 10 (Artúr 3); Offside: 1 (Federico Higuain 1); Corner kicks: 5 (Federico Higuain 3); Saves: 5 (Zack Steffen 5)
Houston Dynamo: Joe Willis; Andrew Wenger, Adolfo Machado, Jared Watts, Leonardo (Kevin Garcia 90), Adam Lundkvist; Eric Alexander, Boniek García ©, Tomás Martínez (Memo Rodriguez 78); Mauro Manotas, Romell Quioto (Ronaldo Peña 65)
Unused subs: Chris Seitz, Arturo Alvarez, Eric Bird, Luis Gil
Total shots: 13 (Mauro Manotas 4); Shots on goal: 5 (Romell Quioto 2); Fouls: 11 (Tomás Martínez 5); Offside: 0; Corner kicks: 4 (Boniek García 4); Saves: 4 (Joe Willis 4)
CLB: Gyasi Zardes (caution; foul) 56
HOU: Leonardo (caution; foul) 80
HOU: Adam Lundkvist (caution; foul) 86
Referee: Mark Geiger
Assistant Referee 1: Logan Brown
Assistant Referee 2: Oscar Mitchell-Carvalho
Fourth Official: Rubiel Vazquez
VAR: Kevin Terry, Jr.