HOUSTON – Two first-half goals in a span of six minutes sealed the Houston Dynamo’s sixth win of the season — and third consecutive at home — as the Orange swiftly handled the Colorado Rapids 2-0 on Star Wars Night.
The game got off to a slow start for Houston (6-5-3, 21 points) and it’s just how head coach Wilmer Cabrera expected it to be.
“We knew tonight was going to be a tough match with a team that is normally going to be deep, waiting with five in the back and two or three defensive midfielders and only one player up top,” Cabrera said.
The game picked up steam in the 25th minute and it started when Andrew Wenger, who was making his return to the pitch after being a late-game scratch against New York City FC in late May, had to be replaced after feeling some tightness in his left calf.
Replacing Wenger was Adam Lundqvist, and that’s when Houston put their game on hyperspeed and gave the announced 16,058 in attendance, some in Star Wars attire, much to cheer about.“They were aggressive and we went after them and we took control of the game quick and we started to create options,” Cabrera said of his team performance in the first half. “And when we didn’t create options we were moving the ball and trying to find the game with our for 50/50 balls.”
With the Rapids sitting back, Houston pressured them high up the field and were rewarded for their efforts in the 30th minute.
Tomás Martinez took the ball from Rapids midfielder Johan Bloomberg just outside the box and then proceeded to dance around Rapids defenders Deklan Wynne and Danny Wilson before ripping off a left-footed shot
Rapids ‘keeper Tim Howard made a kick-save, but unfortunately for him, the rebound went straight to Martinez, who shot it back for the game’s first goal.
The goal was extra special for Martinez, who’s grandparents flew in from Argentina to see him play in tonight’s game.
Five minutes after Martinez’s goal, and with La Naranja rolling, DaMarcus Beasley received a pass from Romell Quioto and got into the box but before the veteran defender could get to it, Bloomberg brought him down. The referee immediately pointed to the spot.
Jun 9, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Dynamo defender Leonardo (22) and Colorado Rapids forward Yannick Boli (9) attempt to control the ball during the first half at BBVA Compass Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Mauro Manotas, who’s been on a scoring slump, calmly stepped up and converted the penalty to put Houston up 2-0. Aside from doubling up their lead, the goal also marks the 2oth game out of 24 that Houston scores two or more goals since Cabrera became the head coach.
“Today was a game to close out the scoring slump that I had been having,” Manotas said. “Once they brought Beasley down I grabbed the ball with confidence and stepped up and hit it well.”
If the Dynamo were rolling after the first goal, after the second the Orange were “cruising” Cabrera said. But the fireworks were far from done in the first half.
Four minutes into stoppage time, Rapids forward Yannick Boli was shielding the ball from Dynamo centerback Leonardo when Boli raised his hands and slapped Leonardo in the face. The referee had no choice but to show Boli a straight red.
Despite having a man advantage for an entire half, La Naranja could not add to its lead, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Houston hit the woodwork twice and might have easily added a third goal if not for Tim Howard.
Houston settled for the 2-0 win and while it couldn’t add to its lead, Houston managed a clean sheet for the first time since its opening game win over Atlanta. For Dynamo ‘keeper Joe Willis, it’s his first of the year.
“It’s been a while since we’ve kept a clean sheet so personally for me, it’s good for my confidence,” Willis said. “But for the team also, it’s good for us moving forward.”
Getting the clean sheet “is a turning point” for the Dynamo, Cabrera noted. He also said he hopes his team grasps that it can play good defense and close games out.
With the FIFA break set to start, the next MLS regular-season game for the Dynamo is at Western Conference nemesis Sporting KC on June 23. But before that, Houston has a date with Minnesota United in the fifth round of the U.S. Open Cup on Monday, June 18.