By THOMAS FLOYD
New year, same Houston Dynamo.
Extending their unbeaten streak since opening BBVA Compass Stadium into 2013, the Dynamo defeated D.C. United 2-0 on Saturday behind the typical staples of stingy defense and set-piece proficiency, along with the less-expected offensive exploits of holding midfielder Ricardo Clark.
Roaming forward frequently to join the Dynamo attack, Clark drew a penalty kick, forced an own goal and bagged a tally for himself as Houston seized a deserved three points against a United side lacking in conviction on the ball without suspended captain Dwayne De Rosario.
Were it not for a standout performance from United goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who stopped a penalty kick and came up big with regularity, Houston would have gone ahead long before doing so on James Riley’s 80th-minute own goal.
The first half thoroughly belonged to the Dynamo, as Brad Davis and Oscar Boniek Garcia pinched inside from the flanks to help dictate possession. In De Rosario’s absence, United struggled to find cohesion in the attack with the more defensive John Thorrington filling that playmaker role.
In the 40th minute, it appeared Houston was poised to grab that deserved first goal when Clark was put in alone on the D.C. goal and tripped up from behind by Chris Korb. At that point, the match took an odd turn: Referee Baldomero Toledo signaled for a penalty kick despite Clark being a step outside the box — then showed the last man Korb just a yellow card for the foul.
But Hamid made the penalty call a moot point, holding his ground and turning away Davis’ soft effort from the spot. And United nearly capitalized at the other end moments later when Chris Pontius’ bending free kick struck the crossbar.
Just before halftime, Hamid came up big again. After Korb cleared a Will Bruin header off the line, Hamid charged forward to deny a point-blank effort on the rebound from Giles Barnes.
As the second half wore on, both sides squandered chances. In the 60th minute, Pontius headed a golden opportunity over. Twelve minutes later, Barnes pushed a shot wide after being hurried by Riley at the last moment.
But it was only a matter of time before the Dynamo broke through. As a Davis corner kick was whipped in, Riley contested Clark for the service and fired a header into his own net.
And nine minutes later, Clark iced the game by grabbing a goal he could call his own, running onto Warren Creavalle’s setup from the end line and slamming his shot past Hamid.
How do you think the Dynamo looked? Is Clark poised to reclaim his status as one of the league’s top defensive midfielders? Are you surprised United couldn’t get more going offensively?
Share your thoughts below.