DC United headed into this past Saturday night's matchup against the Houston Dynamo knowing two things...
One, the Dynamo have yet to lose against MLS opposition at BBVA Compass Stadium.
And two, United has never won in Houston, going a combined 0-7-1 lifetime in the Bayou City.
So without suspended star Dwayne De Rosario, United figured it would be best to defend and look for the counter whenever possible. That plan worked to perfection -- at least for the first 80 minutes.
United shot themselves in the foot by committing an own goal, off a Brad Davis corner kick, no less. Suddenly, this defense-first-minded side had to open themselves up in search of an equalizer. That's when Ricardo Clark went to work.
Nine minutes after the James Riley own-goal, Dynamo second half substitute Warren Creavalle worked some wizardry down the right baseline, eluding DC defenders. Just outside the six-yard box, he found Ricardo Clark, who rifled home the insurance goal, putting an end to United's comeback bid.
In a game almost entirely dominated by the Dynamo, Clark was perhaps the most influential. Aside from dealing DC the final blow, Clark was wrestling with Riley during Davis's 80th-minute corner kick. It was the physicality that disrupted Riley just enough to commit the own goal.
"I think I had a case for a foul, but I don't think the ref is going to call a foul on that instance; he's not going to give away a PK," Clark told Hair Balls. "I just wanted to get my body in the way, create as much havoc as possible."
The game, in the eyes of Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear, was very physical.
"There could have been more fouls called on both sides of the ball," Kinnear said. "It was a man's game tonight. I think sometimes the whistle was put away because both teams were fouling at the same time, and sometimes that's the way the game goes."
Earlier in the first half, Davis sent a nice through ball to Clark, who was able to break free and go one on one with the goalkeeper. United defender Chris Korb took down Clark from behind in the penalty box, awarding the Dynamo a penalty kick. For his troubles, Korb received a yellow card on the play. Davis missed the ensuing penalty, keeping the match level at 0-0.
The win extends the Dynamo's unbeaten home streak to 26 matches, the second-longest streak in MLS history. When all competitions are included, the home unbeaten streak stretches to 30 matches.
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That number will be put to the test on Tuesday night when Santos Laguna come to town for a CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal clash. The game is the first of two in a home-and-home, aggregate-goal series.
When asked about the prospect of facing the team currently fifth in the Liga MX general table, Kinnear was pretty straightforward.
"It's gonna be hard. It's not gonna be easy."