Houston Dynamo’s Will Bruin and Laredo Heat’s Adan Villavicencio battle for the ball in their Fourth Round US Open Cup match. Photo: Wilf Thorne/Houston Dynamo
The Houston Dynamo opened its 2014 US Open Cup campaign with a narrow 1-0 win over PDL side Laredo Heat on Wednesday night. Honduran midfielder Alexander Lopez opened his scoring account for the Dynamo with the game’s lone goal. While the match only produced a single goal, two player ejections – one from each side – and a handful of chances for both teams made the game an exciting one.
With the win, the Dynamo advance to Round 5 where they will face another Texas-based club, either the San Antonio Scorpions (NASL) or their MLS rivals FC Dallas at a date to be determined.
The first half started slow with Houston dominating possession, but doing little with it.
In the 11th minute, Alex Lopez provided a perfect cross to Omar Cummings, but the striker’s header was wide of the net. The next chance for Houston came in the 23rd minute when Giles Barnes’ one-timed a shot was just outside the inside post after Will Bruin laid the ball off to the Englishman.
Laredo kept tight on defense, often keeping five players back to limit Houston’s attack. In the 38th minute, Cummings had the ball at the top of the box and passed to Lopez who streaking in to his right. Lopez, recognizing Laredo goalkeeper Jorge Ortega was out of position, chipped the ball over his head and in the far corner of the net to give the Dynamo the 1-0 lead.
Eight minutes later, a second yellow card for Laredo defender Matthiew Braem put the Heat down a man with more than a half to go. Braem and Barnes were involved in a few incidents leading up to the ejection.
Lopez nearly doubled the lead just before the half, but his shot went just above the goal and into the stands.
Just seven minutes after the start of the second half, goalkeeper Tyler Deric committed an unusual error and was sent off for Houston, evening the two sides with ten players each. Laredo drew Deric out of the 18-yard box and the young keeper handled the ball to earn the straight red card.
The ejection forced Dominic Kinnear to remove Cummings for Tally Hall, leaving Bruin as a lone striker.
Both teams had limited chances as the match neared its conclusion, but Laredo appeared to catch a second wind and seemed to be knocking on the door. Felix Garcia, a former Dynamo draft pick, had a chance to even things for the Heat with five minutes left in the game, but fired his attempt over goal. Hall came up big for Houston with a save in the closing moments.
Alexander Lopez scored his first career US Open Cup goal and it was all the Houston Dynamo needed against the Laredo Heat. Photo: Twitter @DomsDisciples
The Dynamo have struggled in the recent weeks, and Wednesday’s match was no different. Credit Laredo for playing their game and finding the ability to push forward for an equalizer late in the match when the Dynamo were out of gas.
After the match, Kinnear admitted Houston was in the driver’s seat until the red card to Deric.
“It was a bit unfortunate,” he said about the ejection. “The game was pretty well in hand, it got to be a little open with some tired legs out there.”
Regardless of who they will play in Round 5, Deric’s ejection puts the Dynamo in a difficult situation. With Deric suspended, Tally Hall is currently the only eligible goalkeeper as the club’s other netminder, Michael Lisch, is on loan to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and has already been cup tied after playing in the USL PRO side’s Second Round win over the New York Red Bulls U23s (NPSL).
For Alex Lopez, Wednesday’s goal was his first career goal since joining MLS and the Houston Dynamo in 2013.
“I’m very happy to score my first goal,” Lopez said in Spanish. “It’s definitely a confidence booster, and I hope it’s the first of many.”
With their next opponent yet to be determined, Kinnear acknowledged the club is headed into the round with the right momentum.
“It’s good to win any game you play, and it gives us confidence going in to the next round.”
Stephen Eastepp is a reporter for Keeper Notes, a media team covering Houston and international soccer. You can follow him on Twitter @Eastepp_Soccer.
FULL MATCH REPLAY: Houston Dynamo 1, Laredo Heat 0