Was it pretty? Mostly no. But that doesn’t matter in a situation like this – only the final score matters.
Here’s the deal: the Houston Dynamo had not lost a home game in their new stadium since its opening a year ago, and they hadn’t lost in their previous stadium in quite some time as well. All told, a 36 game home unbeaten streak. That’s almost two full MLS seasons’ worth.
So it was kind of a big deal when Sporting KC blanked Houston on Sunday, walking away with an improbable 1-0 victory thanks to a glancing header off the shaved dome of Aurelien Collin midway through the second half.
Because, honestly, Houston pounded the KC goal for most of the second half and were a bit unlucky to come up empty.
“I can’t fault the guys for their effort, their desire or their determination,” explained Houston manager Dominic Kinnear afterwards. “Like I said, we spent the last 15 minutes putting the fans on their feet and putting us all on the edge of our seat, but we just couldn’t get that goal.”
And it was a physical battle throughout, with KC getting whistled for a whopping 25 fouls to Houston’s 10. Both Collin and Oriel Rosell picked up yellow cards that will keep them out of the next match due to accumulation.
“This team is one of the best over the last two years,” said Collin of the Dynamo. “It’s a very good team; a very physical team. This is my kind of play. I love playing against these types of strikers. I love battling and that’s why every time I come here I give everything I have on the field.”
And battle he did, never more importantly than in the closing minutes when he just barely put a toe on the ball as speedy Houston striker Andrew Driver looked to be in behind. Not only did the Frenchman trip up Driver, he recovered quickly enough to corral the ball and shield it from the second Dynamo player looking to pick up the garbage.
Was that the best tackle ever, or the luckiest? A bit of both perhaps.
Another bright spot was newcomer Ike Opara, who’s been filling in at center defender while Matt Besler gets healthy. Opara is great in the air, athletic, and rangy. Perhaps not as good a distributor as Besler, but it’s so nice to have some REAL center defense depth after several years where one injury could put the D in disarray.
And DP Claudio Bieler is just getting more and more comfortable in KC’s system. He had a really good chance in the second half that beat the keeper, but was lashed just wide. Though he’s not flashy (at all), when the South American is in the game he changes things, makes the defense pay a bit more attention, and stretches space along the back line.
And he’s got a pro touch on the ball.
So does this win signal an end to Houston’s recent dominance over Sporting, including knocking the boys in blue out of the last two MLS Playoffs? Well, we’ll find out more soon, because KC plays Houston again in just about 10 days, this time in the friendly confines of KCK’s Sporting Park.
But Dynamo defender Bobby Boswell isn’t buying any of that.
“Have you ever seen them come in here after the game, and go running around screaming in the tunnel?” he asked after the loss. “I haven’t. So, they obviously feel that they have accomplished something great… We are a better team than that, and we will show it in the next game.”