By Matthew Reese
The Houston Dynamo ushered in a new era on Saturday night against Columbus Crew SC.
A new head coach, Owen Coyle, patrolled the sideline. The Dynamo showcased their new home jerseys. Three of the 11 new players brought in this offseason made appearances. Yet, it was a familiar face that led Houston to a 1-0 victory in the season opener.
For those who have followed the Dynamo closely for a few years, Tyler Deric's performance Saturday night came as no surprise. The 26-year-old goal keeper has been with the club since 2009, biding his time. Players and coaches within the organization knew he was destined to be a No. 1 'keeper when he got his chance.
That chance came in the final nine matches of last season, after starting goalie Tally Hall -- now with Orlando City FC -- tore his ACL. In those nine starts, Deric produced three shutouts. With Hall now gone, Deric came into the season as the favorite to win the starting job, and his performance against a feisty Columbus Crew this weekend cemented his position as the team's top goal keeper.
The first half of the match was slow, as to be expected in the opening match of the year. Both squads were hesitant to commit too many players forward, trying to feel out the opposing defenses, which led to few scoring chances.
Houston's midfield -- which notably lacks depth -- featured veterans Brad Davis, Boniek García and Ricardo Clark, along with the young Honduran Luis Garrido. Though you would be hard-pressed to find a harder working duo of García and Clark, the center four struggled to keep up with Columbus for the entire 90 minutes.
The start of the second half put the Dynamo on their heels when Crew SC came out and controlled the game.
Luckily for Houston, Deric was in outstanding form. Twice in the first 20 minutes of the second half the goal keeper made spectacular diving saves to keep the game scoreless. First on a Kei Kamara header, and then ten minutes later on a low, screaming shot by Kristinn Steindorsson. This save proved vital, as Giles Barnes went on to score the only goal of the game two minutes after.
Owen Coyle's campaign as the Dynamo head coach started with a win, but much work needs to be done by Houston if they want to compete in a stacked Western Conference. Offensively, the Orange struggled to finish moves. Many of their attacks fizzled out in the final third of the field due to simple mistakes.
And the Dynamo were out-shot 18 to six on the evening, with only three of the six shots on target. Columbus also had possession of the ball longer, had five more corners and produced 30 more crosses than Houston.
Houston's only attack forward that seriously threatened the net produced a goal.
In the 66th minute, right back Kofi Sarkodie -- sporting a uniform with no number or name after suffering a nasty cut on his neck leaving his jersey bloodied -- picked up the ball around the center stripe. He sped forward, beat his man one-on-one and laid off a perfect pass to Barnes who blasted a shot into the roof of the net.
— Houston Dynamo (@HoustonDynamo) March 8, 2015
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Deric did the rest. Down the stretch, the first-year starter was tested numerous times, but nothing was getting into his net.
The Dynamo will look to build on an early three points next Friday when expansion club Orlando City SC comes to town.
Every point Houston can earn this season will be key in the Western Conference -- which features the likes of Supporter's Cup Shield holder Seattle Sounders, MLS Cup Champion LA Galaxy and heated rivals Sporting Kansas City and FC Dallas.
If Tyler Deric proves that his first MLS season opener wasn't a fluke, the Dynamo just may stand a chance.