The Houston Dynamo entered the final match of the Carolina Challenge Cup with a 1-0 loss to the Charleston Battery and a 2-1 win over New York City FC. The men in orange were able to best MLS newcomer Orlando City SC 3-0 after Oscar Boniek Garcia helped lead the Dynamo by notching 2 assists and drawing a penalty which had notorious Dynamo villain Aurellian Collin sent off (yes in preseason). Goals from Will Bruin, Brad Davis, and Leonel Miranda helped end the Dynamo preseason with a win.
Things weren't all smooth sailing though as the Dynamo struggled early in the match to keep the ball and push it into the offensive third of the field. The Dynamo were able to make their adjustments and produce on the counter attack. This heated preseason game will surely establish a bit of rivalry fueled in part by the antics of Orlando's Aurellian Collin.
1) Boniek Garcia was the man of the match. After the team seemed to struggle to move the ball up the field, Boniek lit a flame under the team after he single handedly dribbled through the entire defense and then poked the ball over to Will Bruin who beat goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts (who was moving in on Boniek) to give the Dynamo a 1-0 lead. OBG would go on to draw a penalty which saw Collin sent off and then set up Dynamo newcomer Leonel Miranda with his first goal in a Dynamo jersey.
What I liked the most about Boniek's performance is it shows that the team can thrive with a withdrawn forward (or attacking midfielder in a 4-5-1) as long as the speed is there. Alex Lopez didn't have the jets to burn players and open up space on the counter attack the way that Boniek did in this game. Boniek went straight at goal, never blinking, and then tapped the ball over to someone else to finish it - unselfish and effective.
2) I've been raving about the effectiveness of Ricardo Clark and Luis Garrido in the center of the pitch and they continued to put in a solid shift. Even as the Dynamo looked sluggish early in the game, the defensive pressure from Clark and Garrido made it nearly impossible for Orlando to get through. In fact, the entire game Orlando rarely found success through the center of the field and often relied on wide play to find room into the Dynamo defensive third.
3) Speaking of the defense, they also deserve credit for holding it together well. David Horst replaced Raúl Rodríguez in the starting lineup and his pairing with Jamaican center back Jermaine Taylor looked better than it had all last year. A huge reason for that is the support the central midfield provided, but one has to appreciate the solid defensive efforts by this team after allowing so many goals in last season. Kofi Sarkodie harassed Brazilian legend Kaka forcing the icon to quickly make passes and crosses rather than penetrating the ball behind the defense.
1) Cooler heads usually prevail and in this case they did as the Dynamo didn't have any players sent off and Orlando SC had two sent off. Still, players that are known for their fiery tendencies such as David Horst, Luis Garrido, yellow card enthusiast Kofi Sarkodie, and even Tyler Deric, may not escape so lucky in the future. Tyler Deric could have seen a card for pushing Kaka off the ball and a few other hard tackles that were made won't be made little of in the regular season. It's important to protect your team, but getting sent off doesn't help anything and as we saw in this game, it really, really benefits the other team.
2) Winning with a full team against a 9 manned opponent feels hollow and disrupts preseason training. The Dynamo put on a passing exhibition for most of the match and were rarely tested. The good thing was our subs were made quicker and had time to play, but playing with such a large advantage in the last official preseason game before the regular season doesn't help anyone.
3) Seeing Brad Davis leave the match shortly after his penalty kick conversion is a worrying sight for any Dynamo fan. Davis put in a good performance and is always a huge part of the success of this team so it's troubling to see him go out. Hopefully his substitution was precautionary and he just had tightness in his leg.
Overall, this was a good game. The team struggled early on, but may have figured out how to play with a 5 man midfield (or withdrawn forward) at last. They were able to possess well and really take the sting out of Orlando's attacks and they did all of it without Giles Barnes and Raúl Rodríguez. The Dynamo will go on to win the Carolina Challenge Cup IF the Charleston Battery tie or lose to New York City FC. The next scheduled game for the Dynamo is the regular season opening match against the newly rebranded Columbus Crew SC next Saturday.