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Clark leads way as Dynamo drop sluggish D.C. United


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.


  1. Barnes was excellent as everyone is saying. Clark was in full beast mode. I know he was readying his right boot in case Ruiz took the field… Defense was decent. Taylor and Ashe are underrated, as usual, sadly Ashe moreso by Dynamo fans. The guy is one of the better LBs in MLS, and a lot of teams would pay some change to have him.

    DCs lone bright star was Pontius. McDonald was atrocious. If you can shore up your defense with an acquisition or two and get DeRo back, you’ll be fine, but if not… No way you guys accomplish what you did last year. Columbus will be sitting in your playoff spot.

  2. Just finished watching it on TiVo and it was everything I feared going into the season. We have the only defensive striker in the league in Pajoy. We value hard workers over productive players. The defense was in shambles. Without DeRo we can’t keep possession. The team had no form or game plan.

    We are MLS’ Liverpool: A storied history, but a team lacking ambition and bloated with journeymen players who aren’t that good. It’s sad when the announcers say Riley was a good pick up after Najar left because he has been around the league and he’s a veteran. You do not replace one of your best attacking threats, whose a teenager, with speed, and goal scoring boots with a veteran.

    Good: Hamid, Kitchen, Pontius.

    Poor: Defense, DeLeon, Pajoy.

  3. I was impressed with Barnes play and actually shocked when I saw he was playing a forward position next to Bruin. When Cummings eventually is in the mix and Barnes is at Mid, this team will be extremely dangerous. Still not happy with Ashe’s play. Would like to see what Creavelle can do with more minutes. Also, am interested to see how Driver will fit into the mix. We haven’t talked about Johnson and the other rookies. this team is deep!

  4. I was at the game. I’m glad Houston won. Chris Pontius is a good player and I though he was gonna make that free kick that struck the top bar. The penalty kick was a weird decision but at the same time the guy should’ve gotten a red card so DC got the better end of the deal by getting to keep their player on the field. Hamid was on fire! Barnes had a good showing and looked to be in better shape than last year. Ricardo Clark was and always is the man! He was all over the place, I’m glad he had his “A” game last night. Lastly, for whatever reason, EVERYONE gets pumped when Brian Ching is on the field and I believe that energy helped lead towards those goals. The players and fans know how dedicated he is to the team and that translates into extra effort by the players. I, for one, don’t care if he scores or not, he’s earned his place to be able to step on the pitch for a few minutes and retire in Orange. Go Dynamo!

  5. I’m happy with the Dynamo result and continued dominance of DCU, but I’m getting tired of playing them without DeRo.

    Korb escaping red and Hamid’s save is karmic retribution for last uear’s EC finals, even if the stakes were much lower.

  6. sad to see such a poor showing by the coach and most of the players

    the better team won

    hopefully DC will stop playing for ties and actually attack next week

    • DC was unimpressive. That did not feel like the team we played last postseason. Houston looked pretty good but for the more critical fans the question is, have we done enough to move from #2 to #1? Maybe Cummings, if healthy, can elevate us some, but we wasted a ton of chances. I’m not 100% sold injured Cummings and Carr plus ineffective Ching and Weaver is getting it done alongside Bruin. Barnes played M most of last year, we’re already going gimmick on opening day because of how many broken and weak Fs we have. It’s better than most teams but the FO seems to forget we have to be better than all 18 of the rest, eg, Donovan and Keane in LA. I watched us waste a ton of chances and get our only goal from two defensive midfielders setting each other up. That should have been 4- or 5-0.

      I mean, I felt like we played well and appreciated the attacking approach. But one goal by us against a mediocre team minus DeRo?

      I’d be interested if was the relative cold or the marketing or what but it was a rare non-sell-out home opener. I’ve been to some openers before, and was surprised to see less than a full house. Maybe the 40s killed the walkup. Maybe the FO is getting too smug, as the paper (surprisingly, for it’s usually the Dynamo Chamber of Commerce) argued with some rare bite. I do kind of wonder what’s going on because the US-Canada game was embarrassingly attended, and didn’t seem very marketed.

    • De leon and Pontius are supposed to be great attacking players.

      Based on this game maybe De Ro had more to with that than we know. Teams look more dangerous on attack when he is around. .

  7. Houston was good but just wait until Omar Cummings is healthy and you will see them stretch defensives even more. Houston will be tough this year if they stay healthy.

  8. Was at the game as well, had a perfect view of the foul and how that was a straight red if there ever was one. Giles Barnes was very impressive. Easily could have been 3-0 without the heroics of Hamid. Rico was all over the place. For DC Pontius did look dangerous, but without DeRo and even Najar he never had the space that he had last season. Maybe it will change with DeRo Back but DC could never spread the Dynamo defense out enough to cause too many problems. Dynamo looked great but in other games not finishing when they have the chance could be an issue. And not to repeat my self but Barnes looks like a good pick for breakout player of the season.

  9. A fair result for Houston, BBVA remains an impenetrable fortress. For those complaining about the non-red, there were a bunch of bad calls the other way too. Can you imagine how bad it would look if they had scored on what should not have been a penalty? Also, teams like DC (and Houston too) tend to galvanize when they get a red, so don’t assume that would have been an even better result for Houston.

  10. “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.”

    This was a travesty, and was exacerbated by the commentators going back and pointing out that Toledo gave the penalty without even being able to see the foul and where it happened because he was so far away and in such a poor position.

    Can only imagine how many goals Houston would have ended up with if United were to lose a man as they were supposed to.

    • It’s Toledo, he’s good for at least one massive screwup a game. He did owe dc one from the Hainnault travesty in November.

      Houston looks very strong in possession, but weak on finishing tonight, and very vulnerable on the counter.

    • Meh. DC was awful and put themselves in the position to be burned by a bad call IMO. You keep sitting back, absorbing punishment and dragging guys down around the box and eventually you’ll get a bad call. Plus, it was a foul, just not in the box.

    • Yes, because playing a 4-3-3 automatically means you will attack more. Teams do not need to play a 4-3-3, they just need to play whatever style suits their players best. Whether that means holding back and then springing counters, dictating possession and slowly attacking, or putting on waves of possessions. Teams should not put emphasis on just attacking unless the team is designed to do so by having the right players and formation. Otherwise, they are guaranteeing a loss.

      Also, it is also not likely that seeing two “attacking” teams looks pretty. These types of games often turn in to midfield possession battles (that I have often seen turn into pretty ugly games) and then the game turns pretty defensive.

      Its also funny, I have seen a lot of comments that such and such game was exciting. However, many of those games not only had weak defenses on each end , but the teams both played counter attacking styles. So they would both bunker while the other team had the ball, and the play foot race game. So, “attacking” soccer does not necessarily equal exciting or beautiful soccer.

      • “Yes, because playing a 4-3-3 automatically means you will attack more.”

        Yes, in fact it generally encourages it. Sorry, I disregarded the rest of your diatribe.

      • Unfortunately his comment was well thought out as opposed to your lame one liner with no explanation or “diatribe”.

      • KC is practically the poster child for 4-3-3 in MLS and they were the most boring, defensive team in the league for much of last year.

      • Old School says:

        “Yes, because playing a 4-3-3 automatically means you will attack more.”

        Yes, in fact it generally encourages it. Sorry, I disregarded the rest of your diatribe.”

        That was a diatribe?

        Too bad you disregarded it; you might have learned something.

        People don’t always do something that is “generally”. encouraged.

        Besides, if you understand and appreciate the game, it can be just as exciting to watch a team play defense well as watching them attack well.

  11. I was at the game. It looked like DC was playing for a point without DeRo. They settled in pretty tight. Hamid was on fire early on but with 17 shots on goal to DC’s 7 and about 60% possession, we finally broke through. Looking forward to seeing Driver in the mix soon.


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