The Houston Dynamo were without three starters due to international duty, but that didn't slow down the men in orange or stop them from continuing their home dominance. Behind goals from Giles Barnes and Warren Creavalle, the Dynamo (2-1-0, 6 points) handed the Vancouver Whitecaps (2-1-0, 6 points) their first loss of the season with a 2-1 win.
Second year Vancouver forward Darren Mattocks put the visitors up 1-0 in the 36th minute, but a strong second half by Houston was too much for the Whitecaps. Barnes headed in the equalizer from a perfect placed Ricardo Clark cross in the 55th minute, while Warren Creavalle knocked in a loose ball for the winning goal in the 62nd minute.
The first half was primarily dominated by Houston, but quality chances were hard to come by. Ricardo Clark has a chance blocked by Vancouver keeper Joe Cannon in the 14th minute, while Barnes had a shot saved by Cannon just five minutes later. Creavalle had arguably the two best chances in the first half, but both shots were sent into the stands.
While Vancouver didn't have much working for them in the first half, they did have Mattocks. The youngster, who most recall saying he'll score 20 goals this season, had his first big highlight of the 2013 season. Mattocks received the ball near the top of the penalty box from Erik Hurtado and was able to turn Eric Brunner who was filling in for Jermaine Taylor. Without hesitation, Mattocks fired a shot from more than 20 yards out and past a diving Tally Hall. Hall had no chance - no would have had a chance. It was Mattocks' first goal of the season and likely a Goal of the Week candidate.
Houston came out in the second half with confidence and continued to control the ball for long stretches. In the 55th minute, Kofi Sarkodie was able to get the ball into the box to Ricardo Clark. The defender on Clark didn't close down his space quick enough, allowing him to send in a curling cross that Barnes was able to head in for the goal.
Just seven minutes later, Adam Moffat sent in a nice cross that bounced off Will Bruin and became loose in the box. Creavalle, who was pinned between three defenders, dove and threw his leg out to tap the ball past Cannon for the go ahead goal.
Houston was able to hold on to the one goal lead despite some late pressure from the Whitecaps in the last 20 minutes.
With the win, the Dynamo extended their home unbeaten streak to 33 games across all competitions. Next Saturday, they'll face off against the San Jose Earthquakes for an opportunity to tie the all time record of 34 games by Real Salt Lake.
Couple of thoughts on tonight's match:
International absences - With Jermaine Taylor, Boniek Garica, and Brad Davis all out representing their respective countries, Houston's depth and character were put to the test. Eric Brunner, Warren Creavalle, and Andrew Driver stepped up in their absences and ultimately made you forget those three were missing. Driver was extremely active on both sides of the ball and easily could be considered man of the match. His energy reminded me of Boniek on both offense and defense. Aside from Mattocks' goal, Brunner had a solid night in the back, and Creavalle had several moments of glory. After the match, Kinnear was asked about the "replacements," but made it very clear everyone in the locker room is here to play.
"They're not filling in, they're playing." Kinnear on Driver, Brunner, Creavalle covering for international absences.— Ordinary Orange Fan (@OrangeFanBlog) March 24, 2013
Tally Hall - The Whitecaps had a few additional chances to score, but Hall was on his "A" game tonight. In the 53rd minute, Hall made possibly the biggest save on the night as Mattocks and the Whitecaps were in on goal with numbers. Mattocks decided to shoot the ball himself, but Hall deflected the shot off his leg to preserve the lead. In the 73rd minute, Hall made a save after a shot by Camilo took an awkward bounce.
MLS Firsts - Barnes and Creavalle both celebrated their first MLS goal tonight. Both players are in their second season in orange, and both are key pieces to the club's success. Barnes has earned a starting spot after a great preseason and has added a new dynamic to the Houston offense. Creavalle has been a super sub and a spot starter and will continue to see time with additional international matches forthcoming. It's nice to see the two players celebrate their first goals with a thrilling win like tonight's.