Houston Dynamo beat the Philadelphia Union 2-0 to keep their play-off hopes alive in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference.
Will Bruin’s 51st-minute tap-in and a Ray Gaddis own goal were enough for the hosts to triumph at BBVA Compass Stadium, becoming just the second side to get the better of Jim Curtin’s Union.
In a story that seems to grow in controversy every week, Andre Blake lined up between the posts for the Zulus, with the first pick from this year’s SuperDraft making his MLS debut. The official party line on Zac MacMath is that he was rewarded for his US Open Cup heroics with a weekend rest, but with World Cup star Rais M’Bolhi ready to step in, rumours persist of an impending exit.
Despite a lively start though, neither goalkeeper was tested until the 20th minute, when Blake recovered the ball from Brad Davis’ toe, as the United States winger prepared to shoot inside the six-yard box.
Since becoming Philadelphia’s chief decision-maker, Curtin hasn’t put a foot wrong, and his trust in the 23-year-old stopper looked well-placed after another impressive save. The Orange Crush built down the left, with Ricardo Clark driving low towards the far corner, but saw his effort repelled.
Blake then sparked an attack moments later, as he set Sebastian le Toux away, but the Union top-scorer fired straight at Tally Hall. The Frenchman had an even better chance from Danny Cruz’ deflected delivery, nodding wide when unmarked in front of goal.
Bruin’s shot was comfortably smothered before half-time, but a fumble after the restart almost presented Houston with an opportunity. Blake was becoming an increasingly central figure in the game, halting a counter, though his hesitancy allowed the Dynamo to take the lead in the next play.
Stuck on his line
As Giles Barnes burst beyond the visitors’ back-line, the Jamaican international chose to remain on his goal-line, and could only watch as the former Derby County man centred for Bruin to slide into the net.
Le Toux had shown no signs of his fine recent form, and screwed horribly wide for a throw-in when Pedro Ribeiro had worked an opening for his teammate.
Meanwhile, at the other end, rookie Blake appeared to have learnt from his earlier error as he raced out to beat Bruin to a loose pass, and again clutched an attempt from range. However, his best stop was still to come.
Goal-scorer Bruin was again the aggressor, meeting Barnes’ floated cross to powerfully head towards the target, but Blake clawed the ball away, before the rebound was struck against the upright from a tight angle.
Though boasting the best offensive record in the East, Philly were offering little threat to Hall, and Conor Casey’s introduction did little to change that, until Andrew Wenger was denied late on.
The Texans immediately came forward once more, but Blake superbly prevented Bruin twice in quick succession as the 24-year-old tried to run clear. That was to be the last action in the feud between the pair, and despite the previous conversion, the debutant can take pride from his performance against a usually potent forward.
He was to concede again in the dying moments though, stranded as Omar Cummings’ switch deflected off Gaddis’ shin into the near corner, sealing a second consecutive home win for Dominic Kinnear’s men.