The Houston Dynamo rode the heroics of goalkeeper Michael Nelson and defender Sam Junqua to a 2-1 stoppage time win on Tuesday night. A sparse crowd (7,893) witnessed the Houston Dynamo’s win over their affiliate Rio Grande Valley FC (USL Championship) in the Third Round of the 2022 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
The unlikely heroes of the match stole the show in a game that the Dynamo did not put out their best XI nor by their own admission their best effort. Head coach Paulo Nagamura admitted as much in his post game press conference.
“Yeah, I’m pleased with the win,” said Nagamura. “I think that was the objective to go to the next round. I think in terms of playing, it wasn’t our best game. I think having new guys and young guys and a mix of the players that have not been playing lately, I think that was probably one of the reasons. We lacked a little bit of chemistry there, but credit to the players to fight until the end and get a result with the goal late. But again, the objective was to move on to the next round and we did that.”
It was match that Houston was expected to win and rather handily at that. The Dynamo opened the scoring inside the 10th minute of play. Rookie forward Thor Ulaffson sent a service into the box that RGV defender Frank Nodarse neatly headed into his own net.
Houston, though, would return the favor just minutes into the second half. A corner off the boot Ricardo Ruiz found itself deflecting off the back of Dynamo defender Teenage Hadebe leveling the matching at one.
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Unable to get the run of play consistently in their favor, Houston found itself in a precarious situation. In the 61st minute, RGV’s Frank Lopez stood at the penalty mark following a foul by Houston in the box. Lopez faced Dynamo keeper Michael Nelson, just one of four remaining Houston players from the 2018 US Open Cup championship team. Nelson denied the kick setting the stage Junqua.
“Well I don’t want to give away too much of the secret sauce here,” said Nelson about his game saving stop. “But we do a little bit of research before the games certainly and study people’s tendencies and certain things like that and ultimately have an idea of where we want go and in the moment there is a little bit of the art that meets the science where you just kind of feel it out. Frank Lopez has been a professional for a long time and has taken quite a few penalties, so there is defiantly a few to look at. So, it is not complete guesswork but what goes into it is behind the scenes and we will keep it behind the curtain for now.”
As the team entered the third minute of stoppage time, forward Roberto Avila making his Dynamo debut found Junqua in the six yard box. Junqua delivered a perfectly placed header inside the far post with just one quick snap of the head.
Junqua’s game winner came against his former team and his former coach Wilmer Cabrera who drafted the defender while he was the Dynamo head coach.
Along with Vila, rookie Brooklyn Raines in the starting XI made his Houston Dynamo debut. At 17 years, 36 days he became the youngest ever to down a Dynamo uniform.
Into the Round of 32, Houston will host USL Championship side San Antonio FC on May 11.