Not much to say about that one – and I’m trying to be more brief, generally – but the Houston Dynamo did Major League Soccer (MLS) proud in the other CONCACAF Champions Cup quarterfinal. And I’m happy to report that Corey Ashe, my personal liability for the first leg, turned in the man-of-the-match performance that made it possible.
Who can say what happened between last week and tonight’s game? Did Dynamo coach, Dominic Kinnear, force Ashe to work on his crosses again and again and again, until he could send on to the six in his sleep? Probably not. After all, the best balls Ashe played skimmed close to the ground, much like the one he fired at Chris Wondolowski for the Dynamo’s third goal. Ashe also earned the penalty that put the Dynamo up 2-0, “soft” as it was (yeah, I’m sayin’ it: the severity of the contact doesn’t really matter does it? I mean, isn’t about a foul in the penalty area in the end?).
Not surprisingly, Dwayne DeRosario garnered his share of the credit as well. Between his opportunistic (and, possibly, illegal) goal that essentially started the second half and his cool conversion of the PK Ashe created, “DeRo” decided the game and settled his teammates. His finishing touch? The cross-field ball to Ashe that set up the Wondo goal.” Game, set, match, Houston.
Another big star on the night: Pat Onstad, who saved, by my count, two dead-certain goals. The first one of them, a point-blank stuff on CSD Municipal’s Mario Rodriguez, could very well have defined the series. I mean, what might have been had Municipal scored the first goal? A team possessed of that kind of savvy could surely have killed this game dead. But Onstad stoned him inside the six – as well as keeping the Dynamo’s clean-sheet on several opportunities before and after.
The main take-away from all this: damn good game. It’s a shame that CCC games can’t all be like this: great, lively crowd, quick, hard-fought, even-uncompromising play from both clubs until 2/3 into the proceedings. After that, Municipal seemed to feel the weight of the score and, even as they pressed and earned a penalty of their own, they didn’t appear nearly as alive and menacing as they did in the first.
So, that’s to MLS clubs in the semifinals. They passed the audition; good stuff. Now, they just have to get past the Mexican clubs…or the Costa Rican one. Whatever happens, the fun begins next week.