Hi everyone! Relive (or in my case, live for the first time), Houston versus Dallas. Dallas is trying to break their hex of losing in the first round of the playoffs.
History Repeating: If you follow MLS tradition, you're probably aware that Chicago versus DC United, no matter how DC was number one in the regular season, means that Chicago will win. DC actually broke the pattern somewhat by even scoring. They have never beaten the Fire in seven playoff tries.
Meanwhile, Houston versus FC Dallas nearly always means Houston will win. Also, the playoffs versus FC Dallas means that Dallas will lose in the first round, usually on PK's.
So while DC United's one goal disadvantage looked deadly based on the Fire/DC history, the same FC Dallas margin didn't look safe at all versus Houston.
Houston has never lost against FC Dallas at home - they've never even tied. They've always won.
1-NO Goal - DeRosario puts the ball in the net, but he's offside. Sala is down for a good while.
4- Game gets going again. I love you, Robertson Stadium atmosphere, but I hate those football lines.
5- Shot of Richetti on the sidelines - he looked filled with Argentine angst. Ruiz is serious about his playoff beard. Speaking of MLS traditions, I'd like to point out that since 2005, the team sporting the playoff beards has won the championship.
8- Denilson looks useless - knocking a ball out of bounds, but reportedly he wants to stay in Dallas. I'm not seeing this happen unless a major pay cut is involved.
11 - Mullan misses a sitter in front of the goal, sliding and missing the pass, Dario Sala parries another shot, and the post pitches in to block the follow-up try. Wow. The Dynamo should have scored three times in that flurry, but instead, got nada.
12- Dave Dir is the color commentator for the broadcast of this game. This is actually an MLS trend, where ex-coaches call games. Thomas Rongen and Ray Hudson come to mind.
13- GOAL! Bobby Rhine doesn't waste time on the counter attack, sending a long pass up ahead to Kenny Cooper, who knocks it down via header, while Craig Waibel looks lost. The ball reaches Ruiz in front of the goal - and Ruiz is money from that spot with the ball in front of him. 16 playoff goals - which is pretty insane given that Ruiz and his team haven't made it out of the first round the past couple of years.
18- The Dynamo and their fans seemed shocked - their vaunted Robertson Stadium advantage could be in peril, though their team has had by far the better of play.
20-Corner kick for Dynamo- Mulrooney takes. Dallas clears.
22- Ray Burse is putting on a game jersey. Sala has looked hobbled since he went down early in the game. Dallas fans probably won't like this, but Burse has played well for them.
23- Sala gets a card for delaying game. He was coming off the field incredibly slowly.
27- Houston has recovered shape and movement in the midfield. Hey! Denilson with a nice defensive play on Brian Ching. Ok, he's not useless.
30- Waibel tackles Ruiz, who rolls about four times after the contact. Waibel gets a yellow, complaining about Ruiz and his antics the whole time. As much as people say they're tired of Ruiz falling over so much, I'm personally tired of people whining after they've actually fouled a player. Denilson sends in a nice free kick, but Ruiz can't quite reach it.
33- Dir needs to stop jinxing Dallas by talking so much about how he has a feeling about how this year could be different for Dallas and they could advance. Just call the game.
35- Houston CK. It pops out to Mullan, who tries an outside shot, high to the corner, but Burse leaps confidently for it.
36- Bobby Rhine shields Brian Ching off the ball, then goes down after contact with Ching. He holds his hand up for medical assistance even as play continues around him. Houston doesn't care. Heck, his own FC Dallas team has a run of possession and doesn't kick the ball out. The ref finally blows the whistle.
38- Ching with a knockdown pass from Jaqua has the ball in front of goal, but Burse challenges him and blocks the shot, which knocks free in the box, but Dallas finally clears.
40- Ruiz draws a foul from Eddie Robinson, who is furious and gets a yellow for dissent. A fellow LA writer believes Robinson is the best defender in MLS, but he will never see steady national team duty because his temper is so insane.
44- Gbandi with a pointless foul, he pulls on Mullan from behind. That's the kind of card you take when the defender is breaking alone on goal, but that wasn't the case here.
45+ Dallas works the ball around well for an attack, but blows the final pass in to Cooper.
Yi fouls DeRo in the final minute of the half for a dangerous freekick. Dallas clears. Burse punches out the ensuing corner.
Halftime: The Dallas announcers are gleeful that FC has survived the half with the 2-0 aggregate lead intact. 45 minutes from the second round, says Brad Sham. Rhine says the Dallas defense is strong in his halftime interview. He sounds confident.
However, the announcers do note that Dallas is missing three key starters now - Pablo Richetti has a leg injury. Clarence Goodson, suffered a stomach ailment, and then there's Sala, who went out early in the half.
46- Alvarez gets a red. The announcers are guessing, because it wasn't a clear camera angle, but it looks like Alvarez kneed Brad Davis in the groin. Davis may not even have been hit that hard, (I'd have to agree with Dir that Davis recovers far too well if the jewels were actually damaged) but he goes down and the ref pulls the red immediately. Really pointless and foolish of Alvarez.
51- Stuart Holden in for Waibel. Richetti, hamstring injury and all, comes in for Denilson.
53- Houston putting pressure on, but Davis wastes a chance with a high shot from outside. Ruiz wastes time with an ankle injury.
56- Ruiz, back on the field, gets a great lead pass towards the goal. He might actually have an ankle injury, because he doesn't show breaking speed and basically falls down in front of the ball, wasting the chance.
58- Toja with a pair of corners, the second one leading to an Onstad save.
61- Joe Ngwenya on for Nate Jaqua.
65- Burse kicksave versus Ngwenya. Nice.
67- GOAL! Another Houston flurry and Chings knocks down a long pass in front of goal. Holden sidevolleys the ball into the net - a strange bounce on the turf disoriented Burse a little.
70- Sham reviews the disasterous penalty kick history of FC Dallas. Houston, meanwhile, has new momentum and energy in their attack.
72- GOAL! Ching beats his mark to a nifty through pass by DeRo, and buries his shot. The aggregate score is tied.
78- Serioux gets knocked in the knee by Stuart Holden and then goes for payback, knocking Holden down and stepping on his back. He's lucky not to get a red card, though he's shown a yellow.
80- A still-limping Serioux goes out for Dominic Oduro.
83- Corner kick leads to a DeRo header that misses.
85- Dallas players look seriously bummed. They've lost the mental edge.
89- Ruiz with a good defensive tackle, but then he rolls around, delaying things.
90+ Not sure all the delay tactics helped. Ref adds six minutes of stoppage.
Burse with another impressive save - this time smothering a point-blank shot from Brian Ching.
Dallas actually have a deep FK in Houston territory. Bobby Rhine lines it up, serves it right in front of goal, but Onstad came out to punch it out.
What is it with red cards and Dallas in the playoffs? Speaking of tradition - Gbandi got a red card in last year's playoff game. That reminds me that yesterday, I was talking with a local writer about the Galaxy's streak and he pointed out, "How many times did the Galaxy need to go a man up before they scored?" On that logic - Houston doesn't deserve to win this game, because they were losing when both sides were equal. But that's not the game.
2- FC Dallas with an early freekick chance. Cooper sends it over the wall and the goal. Onstad untroubled.
5- Davis off the crossbar, and then Burse saves the point-blank follow from Ching. Wow. Houston isn't discouraged, though, they're attacking even harder. The Dallas defense looks tired.
7- GOAL! Ching scores! It looks like it was offside, but the ball reached Ngwenya by a deflection off a defender, so it wasn't called. It bounced off Ngwenya and then Ching tucked it in. The slo-mo replay shows Ngwenya and Ching even with the defense when the ball was played. Even is on.
8-Moor shoves Ngwenya, and a free kick and card is awarded. Rhine is arguing and gets pushed by DeRo. Finally the free kick gets set up and it's a beaut. Davis bends it around the wall and in. Magic from the left foot.
12- CK for Dallas. It's cleared but Mullan goes down holding his throat. No replay of the knock yet. By the way, I was wrong about Dallas being the only team with the playoff beards. Houston has them, too. Worked for them last year. It's just hard to tell on players like Ching, because his beard is so sparse.
16- Pat Ianni is on for Ching. It cracks me up to see Ianni. His chiseled good looks have turned caveman now with the dark beard.
17- Dallas still getting a chance on the counter. Rhine kicks a line drive toward goal, but Onstad dives to save.
19- Ngwenya's speed is torturing the Dallas defense. Then he gets up in Rhine's face, and DeRo apparently adds his two cents and gets carded for dissent. Rhine looks on the edge of either tears or total destructional meltdown.
22-Ngwenya breakaway on goal and the Dallas defense is too tired to chase him down.Burse comes out and Joe gets too fancy, missing the post by inches into the outside of the netting.
23- These yellow cards could really haunt the Dynamo in the next round. Either they have to play super-careful in the Western Conference final, or they have to risk losing a player for the MLS Cup. FC Dallas may lose versus Houston, but they may have also handicapped the Dynamo so much it will be incredibly difficult for the team to repeat as titleists. No MLS team has done that since DC United in the first two years.
26- Houston, with the lead safe in hand, is content defending. Dir's voice is so downcast and depressed - that is, when he's even saying anything. He's gone very quiet.
29- Rhine has not resigned himself. The frustration he showed earlier has turned to resolve and he is still battling, but the tired legs of all the Dallas players can't mount a credible threat on the Houston goal.
30- Moor shown a second yellow for a tackle - the whole Dallas team argues it, but Pablo Ricchetti probably said something especially insulting, as he is given a yellow for dissent. Dallas is done, and finishes the game with nine men. Final whistle.
Well, the higher seed won this one, and the homefield advantage did what it was supposed to do, but what a tease for Dallas fans to be two goals up on aggregate and then watch disaster strike. Arturo Alvarez had a great season for the team, but can fans forgive such an egregious mistake? I guess Gbandi is still with the team, though.