Battered and bruised, the Houston Dynamo fought their way to a 1-1 draw over the reigning MLS Champions the LA Galaxy Saturday night at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.
A rough start with a new formation and injuries to key players weren't enough to keep Houston from grabbing a point against a Galaxy team that dominated possession the entire match and put plenty of pressure on the Dynamo back line.
Owen Coyle's side came out in a 4-5-1 for its third different look and line-up of the season. Nathan Sturgis made his first start of the season at center midfield in the new look side, which featured Ricardo Clark as a holding midfielder between Sturgis and Luis Garrido. Raul Rodriguez once again missed the match and David Horst took his place in the back four.
The first five minutes of the match had the signs of a disaster on Houston's part. Around the three minute mark, Jose Villarreal found Robbie Keane at midfield with space. Keane exploited the spaces left from an enterprising run forward by David Horst and cut through the middle of Houston's attacking third, making Nathan Sturgis looking foolish while covering back for Horst two yards out of the box.
The Galaxy captain powered past Sturgis and fired the ball towards goal. Houston keeper Tyler Deric had a piece of the ball but it deflected backward and bounced into the goal for Los Angeles' first goal of the match and Keane's second score of the season.
Barnes was booked a few minutes later for simulated diving in the box after a heavy touch on Luis Garrido's through ball put him out of position to shoot on goal.
The game was heading in the wrong direction until brilliant set-piece play put Houston in the right direction.
At the 11th minute, Oscar Boniek Garcia took a corner kick from the right side. Garcia curved the kick to David Horst, who out-jumped noted aerial expert Omar Gonzalez for the ball and headed it down to a wide-open Sturgis. Sturgis one-touched the ball in the goal and evened things up for Houston.
Ricardo Clark had a chance to swing the game in Houston's favor only to have the shot saved by Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo. Clark suffered through injuries in the first half, going down twice with apparent pain to his ribs before Coyle pulled him out of the contest and subbed in Rob Lovejoy during the 42 minute.
Another important player went out when DaMarcus Beasley left the match during the 55th minute, coming off the pitch in the 55th minute for A.J. Cochran.
The second half featured more possession by the Galaxy and more attempts on goal. Deric had to make a couple of saves to keep the hometown club from knocking in a go-ahead goal, including another brilliant save on a Mika Vayrynen during the 71st minute.
Houston's last real threat to the goal came toward the end of the game in the 89th minute on another set-piece, this time with A.J. Cochran getting a piece of the corner kick that was headed to Penedo.
The Dynamo's next contest is Saturday at home against the Colorado Rapids. The game starts at 7:30 p.m.