Champ struggling on D

[MLS] It's preseason, yes, but what's going on with the Houston defense? Gamba Osaka lit up the Dynamo with a 6-1 thumping in the Pan Pacific Championship final a week and a half ago; on Wednesday, the first day of play in the Texas Pro Soccer Festival, Houston conceded three while beating Toronto FC, 4-3.

p>The competition got off to a poor start earlier in the day when coaches Tom Soehn (D.C. United) and Preki (Chivas USA) deemed the playing surface at Steele High School, where the tournament games were scheduled, as too narrow (57 yards?) and uneven. The Washington Post reported that the coaches decided instead to use their reserves that night and played a morning scrimmage, won 2-1 by United, with their first-team players.

True, forward Brian Ching scored two of the goals as Coach Dominic Kinnear rebuilds his attack without Nate Jaqua and Joseph Ngwenya. And TFC scored its second and third goals after Brian Unstruck had scored early in the second half for a 4-1 Dynamo lead. Still, this team set a league record last year by allowing the fewest goals in league history while winning its second straight title

Kinnear fielded what could be his back four in the regular season - Craig Waibel, Eddie Robinson, Bobby Boswell, Wade Barrett - as well as first-choice keeper Pat Onstad. But TFC took advantage of seven Dynamo changes at halftime to get goals by Martin Brittain and Tony Vaireilles in the 71st and 81st minutes, respectively.

Another trialist, Kiki Musampa, put away a Jim Brennan cross in the 36th minute to tie the game, 1-1, following a Dynamo goal in the third minute. Ching headed his first goal from a Brad Davis corner to restore a one-goal lead and struck again just before halftime on a Craig Waibel feed to make it, 3-1.

The tournament is scheduled to resume Friday with Toronto FC playing D.C. United, and Chivas USA up against Houston. Back in Houston, the City Council Wednesday approved a $15.5 million sale of five downtown acres that could be the site of a stadium for the Dynamo.

Along with the swap of an additional acre, the six-acre parcel extends the downtown footprint and while Mayor Bill White has adamantly opposed the use of any public monies for a soccer stadium, this gives AEG and its new partners, boxer Oscar De La Hoya and financier Gabriel Brener, something to work with.

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