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Dynamo use impressive comeback effort to draw ten-man Red Bulls

TimCahillNewYorkRedBulls1-HoustonDynamoMLSPlayoffs (USATodaySports)


Even without head coach Dominic Kinnear on the sidelines, the Houston Dynamo showed why they’re such a threat in the playoffs.

Despite trailing by two goals to the New York Red Bulls after 31 minutes of the first leg of their Eastern Conference semifinal series, the Dynamo battled back in the second half to level the scoreline deep into stoppage time, earning a 2-2 draw.

The Dynamo spent the majority of the second half with a man advantage, as Red Bulls defender Jamison Olave was shown a straight red card for a reckless tackle.

“I thought we did tremendous to go up 2-0 on the road in the first half,” Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke told reporters following the game. “I thought we gave them confidence (in the second half) with the deflection goal, it was a poor clearance on our part. The red card killed us. At the end of the day, those goals were our fault. It wasn’t something created out of (the) spectacular, it was self-inflicted on us.”

Just as he did on Oct. 20, Tim Cahill again opened the scoring on the day. In the 21st minute, Red Bulls left back David Carney played Thierry Henry down the left side. Henry did ever so well to let the ball come across his body before curling a cross onto the head of Cahill, who couldn’t miss from six yards out. It was Cahill’s 12th goal of the year and his 12th goal in the last 20 games.

“This is playoff football,” Cahill said after the final whistle. “We’re ready for it, there’s nothing to fear. The whole game we felt comfortable and just a few errors and you draw 2-2. I don’t think we were fazed at all the whole game until we made just a few mistakes and it happens.”

The Red Bulls seemed to take command of the series when they sprung on the counter attack in the 32nd minute. Dax McCarty found Cahill beyond the midfield line, where he evaded the tackle of Dynamo defender Eric Brunner and then poked a pass towards a streaking Eric Alexander down the right wing. Alexander approached goal, swiveled by Brunner once more, and then finished inside Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall’s near post.

Though they hadn’t been very dangerous in the first half, the Dynamo did have their best chance on goal in the 42nd minute, as Will Bruin was played into the box but put his shot over the bar.

In the second half, the Dynamo came out the more determined side and it showed on the score sheet. As the Dynamo attacked down the wings, a cross from captain Brad Davis went through the box, past the run of Bruin. Carney’s attempted clearance was a poor one and the ball fell right for Ricardo Clark, who controlled and fired past Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles to cut the deficit in half in the 51st minute.

“When Ricardo shot it, Olave was in a position where I just couldn’t see the ball,” Robles said following the match. “I think the ball ended up going through his legs and I just didn’t see the ball at all.”

Referee Ricardo Salazar made a potentially series changing decision when he sent off Olave for a reckless challenge on Dynamo substitute Omar Cummings in the 65th minute. The decision left the Red Bulls with 10 men, forcing head coach Mike Petke to bring on Brandon Barklage and shift Markus Holgersson into central defense.

With the man advantage the Dynamo again attacked wide, looking to catch the Red Bulls off guard. Brunner nearly made up for his earlier mistake when he sent a header toward goal, floating just wide of the post. Dynamo Designated Player Oscar Boniek Garcia had a chance to score in the final 10 minutes, but his strike on goal went straight at Robles.

In stoppage time, the Dynamo completed the comeback when Cummings tapped home from close range. Robles dove to his left to deny Dynamo defender Bobby Boswell a goal of his own but the rebound fell right to Cummings for an easy finish.

“We allowed them back in the game,” Petke said. “We were up 2-0, we were controlling the game, they had no opportunities, they had one opportunity in the first half, second half they get a deflection goal, they’re confident, they’re at home, and we allow (the second).”

The series now shifts to Red Bull Arena on Wednesday, as these two Eastern Conference sides meet for the fifth time this season in the second leg of the semifinal round of the MLS Cup playoffs.

Here are the game highlights:


  1. Salazar lost control of the game before the first half and started pulling out yellow cards left and right in the second half to compensate. Not once did I see him speak to any of the players on the field about calming down the physical play. He just went straight to pocket every single time – especially against New York. Houston got away with murder once they realized that New York was under specific scrutiny – the diving was incessant. The yellow card on Henry – ARE YOU SERIOUS SALAZAR??

  2. Nice game by Carney. Two assists — for the wrong team (pathetic clearance followed by lethargic marking).

    I resolve to be optimistic for RBNY. A deflection and a goal-mouth scramble, even playing a man down for 35+ minutes. Coming home and needing a win over 90 (or 120) minutes isn’t so bad.

    • With Carney on the left and Holgersson somewhat out of position on the right, NYRB can be especially vulnerable to teams with speedy wingers. Carney’s relatively good going forward, but often caught out of position and slow to get back on defense (and when he does, prone to mistakes). He’s pretty much made me long for the days of Roy Miller.

  3. Apparently some people like their soccer very violent. There is no way the foul by Olave is anything other than a red card, and if they do things right he gets and extra game suspension.
    The yellow on Henry is also the correct call. You cannot charge the keeper when he’s unprotected.
    Good job by the referee for having the balls to make the right calls even if he should’ve called the pk for Houston
    MLS needs more of his kind if we want to have a respectable league.

  4. Maybe it was just me but I was very disappointed in this game. I kind of expect the supporter’s shield winners to actually maintain some possession, at least a token amount. But until the red card I think the split was something like 65% to 35%. The Red Bulls midfield was awful and couldn’t hold onto the ball for more than a few passes. Couple that with the fact they bunkered most of the game so Houston had trouble breaking into threatening areas and it was a bore fest regardless of the goals or the red card. Obviously I was not impressed whatsoever.

    • It’s called tactics. Petke wanted to play compact (the field at BBVA Compass stadium is narrow) and knew that he could burn them on the counter, second goal is exhibit A of how that worked. I would fully expect NY to come out and control the game more at RB Arena in the second leg.

      Houston scored on a blown clearance by Carney and a set piece scramble, even after playing most of the second half up a man.

      • The field is kept at the minimum per the request of Kinnear. He has stated that he likes the action to be in front of the goal, instead of the wings. It’s only one pitch out of many in the world that are not the largest dimensions that FIFA allows.

      • I get what he was doing and why he was doing it but it was bulls%!t just the same for several reasons. Certainly you can and should play a more defensive game on an away leg especially when away goals don’t count for more. However there is a skillful kind of defend and counter strategy where you stay behind the ball but then break out as a team and there is the overmatched kind where you bunker with 7 or 8 at all times and when you get possession you immediately look for a low percentage 25-40 lob or through ball to your target men that only get a touch every 10 or 20 minutes. I’d say our MLS supporter’s shield winners opted for the latter and you can’t tell me that if the Real Madrid’s or Bayern Munich’s or Manchester United’s of the work opted to play the same way in any situation that they wouldn’t be lambasted for it even if they do get the result. Obviously the Red Bulls aren’t those teams but neither is any team in MLS so they aught not need to stoop that low. It just makes the team and the league look like crap. Perhaps that is part of the reason I’m so worked up about it. I desperately want MLS to grow and succeed but how can you attract fans when ostensibly your best team is playing pure bunker ball in the playoffs on a supposedly SSS that has American Football lines on it. Worse still that strategy was practically dictated because that same SSS is very narrow and the salary structure is so lopsided that your team’s def and midfield are such a giant step down from your forwards that you have to play that way to ensure a solid defense and you don’t need more than 2 or 3 runners in the front to create legit chances. It was just a showcase of practically everything wrong with MLS. Contrast that with the Sounders and Timbers where even though the Timbers weren’t taking much risks they were still maintaining some possession and sustained pressure on Seattle’s goal and even though there were football lines on the field it was offset by a great crowd of 40K and its like night and day. I kind of hope the Red Bulls blow it at home now.

  5. As a bona fide impartial observer gotta say that Olave’s scissor tackle from behind is a clear red card. That sort of tackle is dangerous and can break legs or cause other serious injury and just because Cummings appeared not to be seriously injured does not mean Olave should have been shown mercy for a reckless challenge. The ref IMO showed courage doing the right thing and pulling out the red in a playoff game. MLS has to finally take a stand against dangerous tackles.

      • we’ll see. thought Olave was the difference in the team’s transformation this year, along with Cahill’s passion and leadership which fit perfectly. It also magnifies the paragon of ineptitude (thank you Bill King!) that Marquez was both as a CB and a DP

  6. I’ll just add another comment agreeing that it was a clear red. There were so many things wrong with that tackle. It was a year late, it was from behind, it was a scissor tackle, it was borderline studs up, Olave left the ground in the tackle, and it was a professional foul. Add it all up, it was clearly a red. Stupid move by a great defender.

    BTW, I’m a NE fan. Not sure which team I’d like to face next round (if we make it that far), but I sure wouldn’t mind three red cards to each team in the second leg. Just sayin’.

  7. New York had the better of the 1st half for sure, but they’re lucky not to leave with a loss. The red on Olave was correct, even though many refs would probably have let it slide. That said, the blatant denied PK at the end would have been much more likely to be a goal than not, statistically, had it been rightfully awarded.

    • But had the ref let Olave’s tackle slide, that penalty shout likely never even comes about. Also, Robles has saved multiple PKs this year (not that that means it wouldn’t still probably have been a goal).

  8. All these commentators lauding the Dynamo for tying 2-2 at home. How about NY being down 10 men and getting that result away from home, with Redcardo Salazar officiating?

    • This is the thing I don’t get at all. The narrative emerging from this game is so wacky. Drawing a team with 10 men at home is “impressive”? It shows “why they’re such a threat”? Most people had Houston drawing or winning at even strength. Doesn’t the fact that they went down 2 and were looking clearly second best before the game changing red card in fact show that they’re actually not as good as conventional thinking would have you believe?

    • +1. I also don’t get this wacky narrative, I mean NY drew on the road playing the second half down ten men, and the narrative is how NY is finished and Houston is back, baby.

      Wouldn’t Sporting KC or RSL trade places with the Red Bulls? In fact I think I read that RSL feels that it is in a good place after losing the first leg.

      Actually Houston should be sending a thank you card to MLS that the away goal rule isn’t used. If NY played in any other tournament in the world, a 0-0 tie or 1-1 tie would send NY through.

      • Hold on there my friend, don’t get me started on this embarrassment called the playoffs. For all the advancements MLS has gotten, they’ve just dropped several pegs. Too many sub-standard fields (the first two games were NFL adverts with NFL logos) and Houston’s field condition would cause most top league clubs to cancel the game. Sorry, you got me started. I’m still in favor of “The Onion” taking over.

  9. If the players aren’t allowed to use steroids, neither should el Popeye the ref. Rod rage effects his decision making skills.

  10. I have to agree with Ives and Taylor Twellman (both via Twitter): that’s definitely a red card. It’s from behind, little or no chance at the ball, a scissor tackle. I don’t really understand the complaints. I mean, could it have been given yellow by another ref? I guess. But it looked like a clear red to me. I’m neither a NYRB or Dynamo supporter.

    • I’ll disclose up front that I’m a Dynamo fan, and I have no problem with the RC.

      That said, I honestly wouldn’t have had a problem with a simple yellow in and of itself. I can’t complain though, since I’m not sure Houston gets the equalizer without Olave off.

      • This is similar to what Simon Borg said in the post game (one of the few times I’ve heard him make an insightful, rational point). If that’s a yellow, there’s probably no one yelling and screaming about it. But the red has plenty of people doing just that. Not that that’s dispositive of what should have been called, but it’s interesting to note. Side note, I appreciate your candor, Hogatroge!

  11. Why does Salazar continue to get such big games? The red card was horrible, several other questionable calls and a missed PK for Houston at the end. Without him I no way Houston comes back in the second half.

    • Hard to say that. Houston got back in the game before Olave went out. Obviously, they equalized while NY was forced to play a man down, but “no way they come back” is too extreme.

  12. Whoever thinks that was not a red for Olave please take the next exit and never come back.
    This includes the narrator that claims ” it becomes very subjective” There is nothing subjective about that two legged tackle from behind. It’s a red card anywhere in the world.

    • You seem to be the only one who thinks its a red card.Both commentators didnt think so and neither does any key who’s posted so far.

    • Yellow card for sure but not a red card in 98% in identical plays. It wasn’t from behind where Cummings had no idea of what was coming. I think the ref realized at some point which is why he didn’t call the PK with a couple of minutes left.

      Great that this game was on NBC. I thought it was entertaining enough that casual soccer fans would have watched. The drama definitely built up as the second half progressed.

      • I think it was a pretty obvious red card. It was definitely from behind. Also, Olave went in with both legs and didn’t get the ball. I don’t think it’s even up for debate.

        Still think Salazar is a crappy ref though.

      • Not hard to distinguish that tackle. Both the speed and height of that challenge are vastly different from Olave’s attempted tackle. That type of challenge is an automatic red because regardless of the outcome of the play, it’s far too violent and reckless to be condoned. Olave’s was not nearly as clear cut.

    • I’m not going to argue about red vs. yellow, but to me everyone who describes it as a two legged tackle instantly loses credibility on the subject. It’s quite clear that his left leg is bent and his left foot is trailing behind the tackle with the studs pointed away from Cummings. He did not go into the tackle with both feet. Once you admit the reality that this was not a two footed tackle and that indeed neither of Olave’s feet made any contact with Cummings, then you do have a subjective situation.

      • Neither of his feet may have touched Cummings, however, his inner thighs came down on the back of Cummings knees. Cummings was lucky to get out of that challange without any major injury. I don’t care if some other ref didn’t give a red in a similar situation, that just makes the other ref wrong. No matter what you think of Salazar, he made the right call.

      • Sorry, Joamiq, but you’re wrong about the “two foot” idea. Been a ref for almost 20 years, and that’s not the standard. The laws of the game are clear– nothing indicates that the feet or studs have to make contact.

        It’s a lunge, both *legs* make a great deal of contact, and the force is excessive and endangers the safety of Cummings. It doesn’t matter if it’s from behind or the side, it’s still the literal definition of serious foul play, and I’d send off a player who did that 100% of the time.

    • Dynamo fans will agree that Redcardo is a bad ref, but that was a red card and the Dynamo earned a penalty kick at the death. Bad calls went both ways. Good luck in New York.

      • Yeah. I guess
        Just not a fan of make-up calls.
        This is pretty close to looking like justice, but wouldn’t it be better to just get consistent competence?

        Daydreaming, I guess

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