UPDATE: The Round of 16 draw was conducted by the US Soccer Federation and it was determined that the Houston Dynamo will host the Colorado Rapids in the next round.
Following ninety nervy minutes at BBVA Compass Stadium, the Houston Dynamo emerged 2-0 victors Wednesday over USL side Austin Aztex in the fourth round of the US Open Cup.
Houston’s Leonel Miranda opened his scoring account in the 24th minute with a cool finish past charging Aztex goalkeeper Devin Perales. Ricardo Clark delivered the dagger in the 92nd minute to put Austin away for good.
It was a fairly even match between the two sides in front of an announced 4,041 in attendance on a rainy night as Austin’s first-choice lineup ran toe-to-toe against a Dynamo squad featuring only one regular starter — center back Raul Rodriguez. The rest of Houston’s team consisted of youth and fringe players fighting for minutes against the first string.
“As much as we made the changes, we wanted to advance as well,” said Houston coach Owen Coyle. “It’s important we know that we have that strength and depth.”
It was Austin that began the match in control, searching for ways through a staunch Houston defense that saw the returns of left back Corey Ashe and central defender AJ Cochran — both of which have struggled to see the field in league play.
As the Aztex sought to deliver the perfect long-ball into the box, the Dynamo began to look threatening, with the clever runs of Alex and Rob Lovejoy turning Austin defenders. In response, the Aztex settled into the counter attack, allowing Kris Tyrpak to run the ball and find open players.
It wasn’t until the 24th minute that Austin were dealt a blow when Houston’s Alex played in a ball to Miranda, who calmly slotted past a charging Perales.
“He’s one of the players that should believe he should be on the team,” Coyle said. “I’m pleased for him on a personal level to get that goal.”
Austin tried to respond late in the first half, with Tyrpak and forward Sainey Touray finding charging runs into the box, but unable to find a final touch to beat Dynamo keeper Joe Willis.
Houston dominated the game early in the second half, using Miranda and Alex to twist Aztex defenders. Austin defenders Michael Ambrose and Max Gunderson continued to find ways to be in the right places and unleash another Austin counter-attack, usually led by Tyrpak.
Gradually, the game began to take on a physical nature with cards and fouls flying for both teams. This did damage to the rhythm that Austin needed for their counter-attack and it ran out of energy well into the second half.
Tyrpak’s 69th minute substitution for Brendan King nearly spelled the end of Austin’s decisive attack.
One final chance for Austin came in the 74th minute when a routine defensive clearance resulted in miscommunication between Ashe and Cochran, springing Aztex forward Trevin Caesar free on goal. A challenging shot forced Willis to make a fingertip save, flicking the ball into the crossbar and over the net.
Houston were able to disrupt the Austin attack just enough for the remainder of the game before subbing on starter Ricardo Clark in the 84th minute.
Clark found an opening, assisted by Mauro Manotas (another player to receive his first minutes for Houston), and delivered a curl past Perales to make it 2-0 and snuff out Austin’s chances of advancement.
For Miranda, his game-winning goal was a particularly special one.
“I’m very happy and excited to get the opportunity,” Miranda said. “I’ve been yearning for not only the opportunity to play but to score.”
With that, Miranda may have earned a role on the Dynamo’s first team entering a tough summer that will see many International absences.
Houston won’t have to wait very long to learn what the next Open Cup phase holds as it will learn on Thursday the draw for US Open Cup opponents in the Round of 16.
FULL MATCH REPLAY: AUSTIN AZTEX AT HOUSTON DYNAMO