[MLS] Houston Dynamo keeper Pat Onstad looked disgusted for nearly the entire game, and with good reason.
RSL sliced open the Houston defense repeatedly Thursday and thumped the two-time champion, 3-1, on a pair of goals by Alvaro Saborio and one from Robbie Findley, who broke through in the second minute to test Onstad with a fierce drive the keeper repelled and scored with a header just a minute later. Those early minutes soured Onstad’s mood, and his expression grew grimmer as a disjointed back line and porous midfield conceded numerous opportunities.
Onstad’s double-save a few minutes later only delayed the inevitable. Saborio tallied in the 24th and 60th minutes before Houston got on the board through Brian Mullan early enough to make the final 20 minutes mildly interesting. In beating Houston for the first time since 2007, RSL gave its guest, and the league, a sharp reminder of which team lifted MLS Cup last November.
Tasked with anchoring the middle along with Bobby Boswell, Adrian Serioux floundered early and often. His slip allowed Findley to break through for that early shot, and Serioux left Findley unmarked trying to trap the U.S. striker offside. Dynamo defender Mike Chabala had failed to push upfield, and Findley bounced a header past Onstad inside the far post for his first goal of the season after netting 17 (regular season and playoffs) last year.
On RSL’s second goal, Serioux’s mis-touch of a Javier Morales pass allowed Morales to tee up a Saborio shot from the edge of the penalty area, and the Dynamo defender was a step late to stop Saborio from heading in a Morales free kick for goal number three. Perhaps Onstad could have come off his line to challenge the chip but the ball dropped near the edge of the goal area in that no-man’s land difficult for the keeper to reach.
Houston struggled to generate incisive attacks, and on its rare shots RSL keeper Nick Rimando saved comfortably, except for a close-range header in the 30th minute by Dominic Oduro thwarted by a reflex save. Mullan, whose energy level picked up in the second half, cut inside from the left flank past Jamison Olave in the 72nd minute to drill a low laser just inside the far post. The goal climaxed a precise passing movement by Houston, which relayed the ball up the right wing and then inside to Brad Davis, whose sharp diagonal ball found Mullan in space.
Another slick passing move released a ball toward Davis near the penalty spot, but a quick, brave dive by Rimando at Davis’s feet snuffed the opportunity. RSL conceded a few careless free kicks that Houston failed to exploit, and two half-chances that fell to Oduro yielded a semi-whiff and a low shot well wide.
By winning, RSL (4-3-1, 13 points) moved into a second-place tie with Houston (4-4-1) behind Western Conference leader Los Angeles. By scoring and looking dangerous for much of the match, Findley gave himself a boost on confidence heading into U.S. World Cup training camp, where he’ll be playing catch-up with Herculez Gomez and Edson Buddle. And by losing, Houston maintained a win-one, lose-one pattern it has followed since tying FC Dallas, 1-1, in its season opener and ended its eight-match unbeaten streak (5-0-3) versus RSL.
Brian Ching returned to action for the first time since injuring a hamstring against RSL April 1, and played the last 28 minutes as a substitute. He reports to U.S. camp at Princeton, N.J. this weekend along with Findley and 28 other players named to the provisional roster.