Coming into Saturday night, the Houston Dynamo were a team beaten up by a rough week on the road. With little rest, they faced the Vancouver Whitecaps that had been lighting up the MLS and things maybe looked a bit grim. However, A handful of Vancouver's poor, risky fouls would ultimately send the Canadian champions down to nine men while Houston cruised to a 2-0 scoreline.
Vancouver entered this match after an equally busy schedule, opting to send their leading goalscorer Octavio Rivero to the bench for rest. Perhaps that was head coach Carl Robinson's way of underestimating the challenge they would face that night but Houston made sure to capitalize by playing the trio of Giles Barnes, Will Bruin, and Erick Torres for the first time this season.
After several early moments of complete control, Houston was dealt a defensive blow when DaMarcus Beasley appeared to pick up a knock on the left leg that has given him issues for the last few weeks. Despite trying to play through the limp, an awkward landing from a header in the 24th minute finally ended his night, triggering Luis Garrido's entrance to the midfield.
Despite a few Whitecaps chances, Houston would finally find their edge in the 34th minute when Ricardo Clark was able to poke home his 6th goal of the year amid a mass of bodies in the box. The effort came at the end of a terrific buildup that involved crisp combinations and shift plays between Giles Barnes and Cubo Torres, as well as Brad Davis and Sheanon Williams who delivered the final low cross for his second assist on the Dynamo.
After that strong start for Houston, the team appeared to sit back a bit, allowing Vancouver to get a few chances at an equalizer. In the 44th minute, Kekuta Manneh found space down the right wing with only Raul Rodriguez in his way. Rodriguez hesitated to react to Manneh's run, unleashing him into space to deliver a dribbling cross to Darren Mattocks. The Jamaican collided with a charging Deric for an out-of-bounds deflection but the run mirrored several others from the Whitecaps that the Dynamo struggled to contain.
Energy levels waned to start the second half but, after ten minutes, Vancouver defender Kendall Waston would find himself getting into trouble too much too quick. A towering presence on set pieces (he missed on three unmarked headers in the first half), Waston would be whistled for yellow card challenges in the 51st and 56th minute, ending his night early.
Problems would compound further for Vancouver yet another ten minutes later when midfielder Matias Laba kicked out and took down Sheanon Williams in the Dynamo's half. That challenge earned Laba his second yellow and the Whitecaps personnel dwindled down to nine with 25 minutes to go.
This would signal Vancouver inserting defender Sam Adekugbe who found himself on the abused end of Brad Davis and Boniek Garcia's technical expertise on the wing. Targeting his side, Houston continued to find space to send in repeated crosses into the box. Ousted came up huge with several saves that were pushed over the crossbar but Houston found one last goal, thanks to Raul Rodriguez.
In the preceding play, Davis played a ball into Boniek Garcia on the right wing who placed it into perfect space for second-half substitute Nathan Sturgis to pounce. Sturgis' shot was saved well by Ousted but the resulting corner would find Raul Rodriguez who made no mistake to put the dagger in Vancouver's night. It marks the Spaniard's second goal of the year.
The win brings great relief to Houston as they now find nearly two weeks of rest thanks to an International break. Giles Barnes, Cubo Torres, and DaMarcus Beasley may find playing time for those matches but the break will give the Dynamo's locker room a chance to catch a breath and regroup.
The rest of Saturday night's MLS action will leave Houston tied for 7th in the West with Seattle Sounders, who play Portland on Sunday afternoon. Both teams trail sixth place San Jose by three points, heightening the importance of every match from here on out.
34' - HOU Ricardo Clark (Williams)
86' - HOU Raul Rodriguez (Davis)
27' - VAN Matias Laba (Yellow)
51' - VAN Kendall Waston (Yellow)
56' - VAN Kendall Waston (Yellow/Red)
65' - VAN Matias Laba (Yellow/Red)
REFEREES: Kevin Stott; Adam Wienckowski (AR), Cameron Blanchard (AR); Mark Kadlecik
HOU: Deric; Williams, Horst, Rodriguez, Beasley (24'); Davis, Clark (72'), Lima; Barnes, Bruin, Torres (65')
SUBS: Willis, Garcia (65'), Miranda, Cochran, Manotas, Garrido (24'), Sturgis (72')
VAN: Ousted; Smith, Waston, Parker, Dean; Flores (60'), Laba, Teibert, Rosales, Manneh (69'); Mattocks (69')
SUBS: Tornaghi, Adekugbe (60'), Techera, Koffie (69'), Rivero (69'), Morales, Earnshaw