The Houston Dynamo’s recent experience at the Home Depot Center, particularly when they have faced the Los Angeles Galaxy, have not been a pleasant experiences for the Dynamo.
Houston had not beaten the Galaxy in Los Angeles since 2007, a span in which it has gone 0-6-1. The last two visits to Los Angeles though were the most painful for the Dynamo, as they finished as runners up to the Galaxy in the 2011 and 2012 MLS Cup Finals, played at the Home Depot Center.
However, a new season brings a fresh start and a chance to write a new story, and the Dynamo did just that on Sunday night, as keeper Tally Hall denied Landon Donovan at the penalty spot in the first half and Andrew Driver’s one-time volley on the run of play in the second half were the key plays in the Dynamo’s 1-0 win over Los Angeles on Sunday night.
“Overall, we’re very pleased,” Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear said. “The defending was good, we took our chance very well and still created some other chances as well.”
The first key moment came in the 24th minute. Donovan sprung striker Jose Villarreal for the penalty area, Hall left his line to beat Villarreal to the ball, but he ended up taking down the striker just inside the box and referee Allen Chapman whistled for the penalty spot. Hall was fortunate to avoid the same fate that befuddled Chivas USA keeper Dan Kennedy earlier in the day when Kennedy was sent off for impeding Sporting Kansas City’s Claudio Bieler from behind after the striker had evaded the keeper inside the penalty area. Hall further amends for his mistake a minute later, as he guessed correctly on the penalty. Donovan shot right and Hall parried the shot away.
“At the end of the day, it’s not really as easy as it used to be because goalies are now more prepared than they used to be, but the reality is that I got to make them,” Donovan said regarding the penalty.
The Dynamo then broke through in the 57th minute. Center Back Bobby Boswell sent a long ball for Giles Barnes, who chased the pass down from the right side into the LA penalty area and withstood the challenge from LA Center Back Omar Gonzalez. Barnes then crossed a ball, which went to the tip of the box, but Driver, who was trailing the play, swooped in from behind and unleashed a powerful one-time volley that snuck past Galaxy keeper Carlo Cudicini, beating him near post to put Houston ahead.
“From there, it was just a gamble,” Driver said of the strike. “I tried to catch up with the play, the ball fell to me and the rest is history.”
Houston maintained the lead throughout the second half, though the Galaxy thought it should have had another penalty in stoppage time, when a volley by Marcelo Sarvas off a corner appeared to have glanced off near the hand area of Houston’s Jermaine Taylor, but Chapman let play continue despite the Galaxy’s plea for a handball.
“We played poorly tonight and deserved to lose,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said. “We weren’t good in all phases of the game tonight.”
Not that those were the only chances the two teams created on the night. LA had the first good look at goal eight minutes in when Mike Magee curled a volley towards the left post, but the shot barely missed, while Houston’s best chance at a first half goal in the 15th minute, as Boswell headed Oscar Boniek Garcia’s corner right at goal, but Cudicini parried away the chance.
Sunday’s game is the start of a busy week for the Dynamo, as they travel to the nation’s capital to face DC United on Wednesday, followed by a home match against Kansas City next Sunday. The Galaxy meanwhile will look to pick themselves back, as they begin their own three-games-a-week span on Saturday with a trip to Philadelphia to face the Union at PPL Park.