These are the ties that try men's souls, especially Houston coach Dominic Kinnear.
The defending champion Dynamo could have moved into a first place tie with Los Angeles atop the Western Conference by beating in-state rival FC Dallas Thursday night at Robertson Stadium. Instead, the third Lone Star Derby of 2008 ended as had the previous two: in a tie, this time a 1-1 deadlock on matching headers by Brian Ching and Kenny Cooper.
Houston, which was missing Richard Mulrooney and Eddie Robinson because of injuries, swarmed all over a confused FC Dallas in the first half, but cashed in only once, when right back Craig Waibel lofted a precise cross that Ching nodded into the net.
Coach Schellas Hyndman, in his second game at the helm, had deployed FCD in a 4-4-2 formation to nearly disastrous results. At halftime he reverted to the 3-5-2 formation preferred by predecessor Steve Morrow, and more importantly, lit a few firecrackers in the shorts of his troops.
Outhustled and outmuscled in the first half, FCD won more of the 50-50 duels and gained traction in midfield. Cooper scored in the 62nd minute when Juan Toja, who had seldom prompted any offensive impetus before halftime, found enough space down the left wing to float a cross that a starkly unmarked Cooper directed into the net.
FCD survived scary moments when Dwayne DeRosario and Ching squandered opportunities and Pablo Ricchetti blatantly chopped Stuart Holden as he set sail with a clear lane to goal in a classic case of a foul denying a scoring opportunity. Yet referee Kevin Stott, who otherwise kept a rough, hotly contested game under control, cautioned Ricchetti instead of sending him off.
Kinnear waited until the 84th minute to bring on Geoff Cameron but his team had lost the momentum it had generated attempting to regain the lead, and the best late chance fell to FCD in stoppage time, when Dominic Oduro swooped on an aimless soft pass from Ricardo Clark and raced toward goal. Clark caught up to Oduro just outside the box and jarred him off-balance as he shot.
In previous meetings this season, FCD and Houston had tied, 3-3, at Robertson Stadium in April, and 2-2 at Pizza Hut Park last month. The 1-1 result leaves Houston (4-4-7) in a second-place tie with Real Salt Lake, and FC Dallas (4-6-5) knotted with Chivas USA in fourth.
June 26 in Houston
Houston 1 FC Dallas 1. Goals: Scoring Summary: Ching (Waibel) 21; Cooper (Toja) 62.
Houston - Onstad, Waibel, Boswell, Ianni, Barrett, Mullan (Cameron, 84), Clark, Holden, Davis (Ashe, 91+), De Rosario, Ching.
FC Dallas - Sala, Moor, Davino, Serioux, Pitchkolan (Oduro, 46), Rocha, Alvarez (McCarty, 77), Ricchetti, Toja (Avila, 85), Saragosa, Cooper.
Yellow Cards: Houston - De Rosario 83; FC Dallas - Serioux 68, Ricchetti 76, Saragosa 82.