Down by a goal to their hated rivals and on the verge of losing their sixth straight league encounter, the Houston Dynamo were rescued by their new Venezuelan starlet Ronaldo Peña on Thursday night.
The 21-year-old received a pass from playmaker Tomás Martínez and proceeded to set himself up for a low right-footed rocket from the top of the penalty box. The resulting 1-1 draw would deny FC Dallas the win on Houston soil, setting up a decisive Texas Derby rematch at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas on Sept. 1.
“This goal is dedicated to my mother, who recently underwent surgery,” said Peña after scoring his first MLS goal. “I pictured it last night and, because of the family situation that we have now, I prayed to God and he thankfully gave me the opportunity to score.”
The Venezuelan was the team’s only signing during the summer transfer window and was appearing in only his fourth match with the team, having played only 61 minutes for the Dynamo before Thursday night.
“What we want to do is something similar that we did with Tomas Martinez last year,” said head coach Wilmer Cabrera. “Just give him some minutes, get to know the league, get to know the players, get to know his teammates and, for us, get to know him better.”
Houston’s new No. 9 has been eased in little by little, playing no more than 25 minutes per spell. On Thursday night he showed why the Dynamo acquired him on a full transfer – and what he can offer to a struggling Houston side stuck in an eight-match winless streak.
Dynamo captain and four-time FIFA World Cup participant DaMarcus Beasley praised Peña’s work ethic and desire to adapt to the team as soon as possible since joining La Naranja just a month ago.
“He’s quiet, he doesn’t speak that much, which is good for a young guy. He just wants to work,” said Beasley. “He’s been doing that since he came in and tonight he got his reward.”
Both Cabrera and the team captain Beasley alluded to a spike in the team’s energy that was brought forth by Peña – an energy they’ll look to tap into going forward. Houston still face an uphill climb to get back into the postseason reckoning, and it only gets tougher next week, as they visit the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday (7 p.m. CT | KUBE 57).
“A point at home is very important, more in a derby,” noted Peña. “From this point we have to think of adding by three points from here on out.”