In nearly every aspect of the Dynamo’s road match at North Carolina FC, the two sides were even. But every game in the US Open Cup needs a winner, and Jose “Memo” Rodriguez controlled a rebound in the 109th minute and slotted a shot just out of the reach of NCFC’s keeper to give Houston a 3-2 win Wednesday night in Cary, North Carolina.
Though Houston was the better team on paper, the club withheld many of their stars in preparation for a league match on Saturday. This created a very even playing field between the two teams. North Carolina FC got out to an early lead when Steven Miller found himself wide open just outside the box. He finished it with a drive to the top corner to give NCFC a 1-0 lead.
That lead was short lived, though. In the 25th minute, Vicante Sanchez delivered a beautiful cross to Andrew Wenger, who finished the easy goal to tie the game. Coming out of the break, Houston looked determined to apply more pressure and create more chances. Manager Wilmer Cabrera later said his strategy paid off.
“Despite having seven players from our affiliated USL team, we needed to come over here and pressure the ball, and it was good,” Cabrera said.
The second half ended up a mirror image of the first, with Houston scoring first in the 62nd minute. Dylan Remick stole a pass deep in NCFC’s territory and found the bottom corner for a 2-1 lead. Just seven minutes later, Lance Laing found the equalizer off a set piece.
With just two minutes left in regulation, play was suspended due to lightning in the area. After taking a break for nearly 90 minutes, the players retuned to the field. After several good chances in extra time, Rodriguez finally broke though to put his team through to the next round.
Houston advances to the Fifth Round (Round of 16) in the Central region, and will face either Colorado Rapids, FC Dallas, or Sporting KC as determined by U.S. Soccer’s draw Thursday morning.