Brad Davis, Houston

Houston opens season with hard-fought tie

An impressive strike by Mike Chabala was canceled out by an equally impressive one by Atiba Harris as the Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas started their seasons with a 1-1 tie.  

Houston coach Dominic Kinnear had some interesting lineup decisions to make before the game. Geoff Cameron and Richard Mulrooney were given an opportunity to fill in the center of midfield, while Andrew Hainault started at right back. During preseason those positions were somewhat up in the air, but the decision to make Brian Ching captain after Wade Barrett’s retirement probably didn’t surprise many.

Houston had the better scoring opportunities early on. In the 21st minute, midfielder Brad Davis lined up a shot from distance that missed narrowly. In the 30th minute, Dominic Oduro should have put Houston ahead as Cameron found Ching, who headed to Oduro behind the FC Dallas defense and in on goal. Oduro was stoned by Dallas ‘keeper Dario Sala one on one.

While no one is going to confuse Geoff Cameron with Ronaldinho, the young midfielder did well in the first game of 2010. Cameron came close to scoring in the 35th minute with a blast from thirty yards out, and he had several good runs and passes.

However, Houston got the first goal in the 36th minute. Davis found Oduro on the left hand side. As Oduro controlled the ball, his man—and the man covering defender Chabala, who was making a run in support—collided and Chabala ran in on goal. As the Dallas center backs slid over to try and cut off Chabala, before they got into position, Chabala shot with his right foot and beat Sala to give Houston the lead.

The lead was short lived, though, as Harris responded for Dallas in the 38th minute. The ball was played behind Andrew Hainault and into the path of Harris. As Bobby Boswell slid over to cut off Harris, Harris cut in towards the top of the box. Hainault didn’t anticipate the cutback and Harris sharply hit the ball past Pat Onstad and into the corner of the leveling Dynamo goal.

If the equalizer wasn’t bad enough, Eddie Robinson left the game injured in the 42nd minute. It was hard to tell exactly how—or more importantly how severely—he was injured, but Ryan Cochrane replaced Robinson as the feisty first half ended knotted at one.

FC Dallas had several opportunities to score early in the second half. Heath Pearce narrowly missed with a shot from distance, McCarty had a header off a set piece and Jeff Cunningham had a plethora of chances.

In the 63rd minute, Cunningham netted what had looked like the go-ahead goal, but the linesman correctly ruled the effort offside. In the 69th minute though, Cunningham broke free behind the Dynamo defense and missed narrowly wide. Moments later, Cunningham again missed just wide. The league’s leading scorer last year missed yet again in the 75th minute, blasting his effort high. The Dynamo defense were lucky not have conceded on at least one of those efforts.

Houston started to regain control of the ball in the last twenty minutes of the second half with their best effort coming to Luis Angel Landin. In the 85th minute, defender Hainault sent a cross to the far post, but Landin was closer to the center of the goal. As Landin drifted over to the cross, he couldn’t get adequately over the ball as his header sailed high.

The final whistle blew shortly thereafter and Houston and Dallas split the honors. An appropriate result as both sides missed several quality chances. Houston’s next game comes quickly as Real Salt Lake travel to Houston for a Thursday evening match at Robertson Stadium.

Watch match highlights HERE.