HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 19: Goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum #30 of the Columbus Crew has a shot by Adam Moffat #16 of the Houston Dynamo slip through his hands that slipped in for a goal in the second half at BBVA Compass Stadium on August 19, 2012 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
So I went to bed shortly after the final whistle, and I woke up this morning trying to recall whether the game I am certain I witnessed last night was real. On the one hand, the entire team has periods of absolute inconsistency with passing and finishing, and then on the other they nailed home two astonishingly impressive goals. Yet, even still, I'm absolutely torn on how to describe this game. Then it dawned on me -- Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. More after the jump.
By all accounts, this game in a simple nutshell came down to a roller coaster ride of emotions. Early on, the Dynamo looked extremely flat and uninspired. And then, after Columbus hit home their first of two goals, the Dynamo were gut-checked into reality. Horrible wing play made way for patient passing outside and then inside, and finally the ball dropped to the magical feet of our humble left-footed wunderkind, Brad Davis.
I can't do the shot justice, nor the goal. What Brad managed to do was secure Goal of the Week nominations in what may well end up being a Goal of the Year nominee. The sheer power belies the very subtle movement of the ball as it curves just-so into the top of the net. Columbus Keeper Andy Gruenebaum had zero chance of stopping the shot. That is not through homer rose-colored glasses either. The shot was impossible, even for say Petr Cech or our favorite Spaniard, Iker Casillas, to stop. It was simply that damned good. Money.
At this point in the game, the Dynamo were on track and the game's momentum swung in their favor. Multiple chances came in succession, and it seemed destined to be Houston's night once again in the Oven. Alas, however, the team became lax in their defending and eventually fell victim to Corey Ashe's inability to pace down the field with whomever he marked.
This is where I'm going to rant for a bit. Earlier in the match, Corey Ashe had been tackled in what can only be described as an atrociously reckless challenge. Ashe came up limp and wasn't the same after, but to make matters worse the official called play on. They showed a replay of the challenge, and there is no doubt it should have been a yellow card, and an easy one at that. On a day which saw red cards handed out like ice cream cones from the Blue Bell factory tour, no card was shown. To make matters worse, the injury to Ashe ended up biting the Dynamo in the proverbial ass.
Sure, we can blame the lax defending, but when you watch the play you can see Ashe is playing farther back than he normally would -- one assumes this is to overcome his notable lack of pace due to the earlier injury -- and so he ends up holding the player breaking for the goal on-sides thus leaving Tally Hall, our beloved Brick Wall, on an island. Tally had no chance, absolutely none. Goal Columbus.
At this point, things became unsettled. We couldn't hold possession for long stretches throughout the entire game, but when we went down after the second goal we simply went to tactics which don't work against a solid central defender like Chad Marshall. Over the top simply doesn't cut it in the MLS. Defenders are too good in the air to allow a teasing ball to work.
Eventually, the team settled back into their rhythm. We began to hold more possession for longer stretches. Our wingers still couldn't do jack shit with the ball against the Columbus defenders, but they weren't giving up the ball either. As we began to build some possession our way, we began to find small creases in the defense, teasing a few chances stomach-wrenchingly close. All good things must come to an end, unfortunately...
But alas, this was not one of them. After a scrum in the box, and effort from our newly re-minted Orange-clad Ricardo Clark forced a ball out to Adam Moffat, who deftly managed to move the ball to his left foot. Now, I for one was a bit scared when it settled to Moffat. Sure, he was in his natural location when he scores those Adam bombs, but he was not turned right and when he took the shot with his left...I sighed. Andy Gruenebaum thrust his hands out at the ball and managed to stop it.
BUT WAIT! His hands were over his head, not in front of him, and the ball had enough power and top spin that it bounced off his hands and backward across the line and into the net for a goal! YES! Dynamo level the game, and with about 10 minutes left in regular time, you have to think they will pull out another victory from the jaws of defeat.
They pushed with all they could muster, a couple of chances falling dubiously close to securing a victory. Just like the entire game, however, the roller coaster ride seemed to ebb and flow like a really bad plotline, constantly jerking on way and then the other. Finally, as the final whistle finally blew, it was certain.
The Houston Dynamo managed only a draw at home against a very up-for-it Columbus Crew. I have said all season long, Columbus is a lot better than they have played against most teams. They have an absolute treasure trove of capable talent, and they are as physical along the back as the Dynamo. In fact, really, the draw here did not surprise me, as I feel both teams are very similar to one another.
In the end, the Dynamo have extended that home undefeated streak to a staggeringly impressive 20 games, and continue to eye the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Evil Empire known as NYRB did manage a win earlier in the evening, but all hope is not lost. They are, after all, still just NYRB.