Brad Davis’ return wasn’t enough to inspire the Houston Dynamo to victory against an out-of-form Portland Timbers side on Sunday.
Will Bruin gave the Dynamo an early lead, but the Timbers responded through Gaston Fernandez, earning his side their first point on the road this season.
The visitors tired late on, but Houston weren’t able to capitalise.
The home side welcomed back captain Davis who had been missing for the previous three games with an ankle injury, and he will now look to prove his fitness in time for the World Cup.
After winning their first two matches of the season, the Dynamo have struggled of late. They’ve now lost four of their last six, and hadn’t scored since Davis hobbled off at half-time in their previous home game – a 4-1 thrashing at the hands of FC Dallas.
Portland topped the Western Conference last campaign, but have so far had to endure a wretched start to 2014. Following this result, Caleb Porter’s side are without a win in their opening eight matches, and sit bottom of the table.
They also suffered the pain of throwing away victory in a Cascadia derby with the Seattle Sounders earlier this month, as Clint Dempsey scored two goals in the final five minutes to level the game at 4-4.
The Timbers came out on top when these two sides met last year, with two goals from Ryan Johnson clinching their first three-point haul of the season, at Providence Park.
Houston started brightly, with Corey Ashe shooting wide early on, before Davis had an immediate impact on his return.
The USA wide man got in behind the Portland defence in the 15th minute, and his delightful cross found Bruin, whose powerful downward header gave Donovan Ricketts no chance.
The Dynamo front man had another opportunity three minutes later, but after exchanging passes with Andrew Driver and bursting into the box, he hit a tame left-footed effort straight at the goalkeeper.
Davis then switched to the right side, and almost had instant success. Cutting inside, he smashed a low effort goalwards, and though Ricketts could only parry, Kofi Sarkodie couldn’t find the target with the rebound.
Having taken the lead, Houston seemed willing to let their visitors have the ball, and they were made to pay in the 32nd minute.
Some nice interplay and movement from Portland ended with Kalif Alhassan playing a pass from deep into the feet of Fernandez. The Argentine hit the ball first time on the turn, finding the top corner with a stunning strike, and silencing a previously buoyant home crowd.
Colombian Diego Chara was starting to cause problems for the Dynamo defence, and his run led to a shooting opportunity for Diego Valeri, but Tally Hall gathered his low drive.
It remained 1-1 until the break, but three minutes after the restart, Houston could have been ahead again.
Boniek Garcia delivered a delicious centre from the right, and Giles Barnes flung himself at the ball but couldn’t make a clean connection with his head.
Then, with the game entering the final stages and the Timbers seemingly tiring, the Dynamo pushed on.
First, Bruin was denied by Ricketts who smothered the ball at his feet. Then the same player flashed a shot wide of the far post following a half-cleared corner.
And just a minute later, the United States international had another opportunity, heading wide from a right wing cross.
With time running out, Driver cut in from the left and his pass found former Timbers man Mark Sherrod who had just emerged from the bench, but he scuffed his attempt harmlessly out for a goal kick.
Both sides had efforts blocked in added time, before the full-time whistle was met with jeers from some home supporters, as both Houston and Portland extended their winless runs.
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