It was a hot night in Houston. How hot, you ask? So hot that a cow's milk would come out as grilled cheese. Bad Texas cattle farm jokes, aside, BBVA Compass Stadium still had an announced sellout of 22,039 despite the plethora of visibly empty seats. Perhaps some of the Dynamo faithful know when hot is too hot.
The result was exactly what the Fire sought. A win would have been wonderful, but a draw in Houston was most plausible.
The heat on the pitch didn't take long to hit searing levels. Twelve seconds in, Patrick Nyarko shot down the right flank and delivered a shot/cross combo that tested the keeper Tally Hall. Houston had their first chance in the 10th minute when Ricardo Clark penetrated the box with some expert dribbling only to be dispossessed by Nyarko and Anibaba. The immediate counter showcased Nyarko on the break, delivering a cross with nobody there to greet it.
Three minutes later, Dynamo midfielder Andrew Driver would go down with what we would later learn was a right Achilles tendon injury, and was replaced by Brad Davis. Dominic Kinnear had been bringing Davis back slowly from a hamstring injury, so needless to say this wasn't an ideal scenario. He would go on to play a fantastic game, and showed no signs of a nagging hamstring.
In the 17th minute, the real fun started when Houston defender Jermaine Taylor came close to heading in a goal that was cleared by Chicago. The resulting corner kick found Bobby Boswell's head and he buried it, only for the goal to be disallowed for offside. Corner kicks were much to the advantage of the Dynamo throughout the entire game.
The 27th minute saw a questionable yellow card given to Joel Lindpere after a foul at midfield. Minute thirty-six saw the yellow cards account balance when Giles Barnes was carded for a side tackle on Alex. The Brazilian really felt the discomfort four minutes later and was taken off for Daniel Paladini.
After two minutes of stoppage time, Fire fans were treated to an awful, lazy back pass from Bakare Soumare, which sprung Paolo Tornaghi into action with a brave clearance. Without those quick reflexes, we could have been looking at a 1-0 deficit going into the locker room.
Cam Weaver had the first solid chance of the second half but his header was just off the mark in the 49th minute. On the Fire's next possession, Chris Rolfe was 1-v-1 against the defender with just the goalie to beat. His golden chance didn't create the goal he was looking for, as his chip shot sailed above the Houston goal.
In the 61st minute, in typical Fire fashion, they conceded the games first goal. With Gonzalo Segares caught upfield, Brad Davis dribbled to the byline, through a very cautious half-tackle from Austin Berry, and sent in a beautiful low cross. Cam Weaver made amends for his first miss by poking it into the back of the net. It was Weaver's first goal in over two years, and the first by a Dynamo forward since May.
Immediately after conceding, the Fire got on the board. Patrick Nyarko, pressing deep in the Houston zone, won the ball from Corey Ashe and delivered a beautiful cross across the face of the goal. Mike Magee rode the offside trap expertly and arrived first to the cross, tapping it in with his left foot.
In the 65th minute, Fire fans were treated to yet another Quincy Amarikwa appearance at the expense of Lindpere. Just a couple minutes after that, Houston's own substitue Warren Creavalle (who came on for Ricardo Clark) sent a lovely flick onto goal only to be stopped by Tornaghi. Coming off an infamous - at least by NBC sports network standards - "Moffat Rocket" that sailed far wide, Chris Rolfe had yet another chance at goal. If his first chance was golden his second was double platinum. A well placed shot directed at the far post however was saved wonderfully by Hall.
2-1 Houston nearly became a reality shortly after Rolfe's miss. Austin Berry found himself in an embarrassing moment after his back pass went between Tornaghi's legs and almost into the Fire net. Chris Rolfe came off in the 81st minute for Logan Pause thus solidifying the attempt at escaping Houston with the draw, but it wasn't the last of the Dynamo's chances. A well timed through ball from Creavalle to Jason Johnson led to a shot on goal, but a brilliant save by Tornaghi kept the scoreline even. The final moment of note came in the 87th minute when there was a brief shout for a penalty after Quincy Amerikwa was sandwiched in the box. It was probably a good no-call by the referee.
Mike Magee said it best in a post game interview with NBCSN when he stated "A draw here (Houston) is definitely a win. I'll take a draw any day of the week here." BBVA Compass Stadium has certainly been a fortress for the Dynamo and wins there are nearly impossible to come by.
A point in the standings sees Chicago in 7th place, remaining five points behind both Houston and New England for that coveted final spot in the playoffs. Their record now sits at 7-9-4. The Fire travel to PPL Park next Saturday to take on the Philadelphia Union, another of the teams above the Fire in the standings. Kick-off is set for 7 p.m.
Chicago 1, Houston 1
Goals: Weaver (Davis, Ashe) '61; Magee (Nyarko) '63
Disciplinary: Cautions: Lindpere '27, Barnes '36
Chicago: Tornaghi, Anibaba, Berry, Soumare, Segares, Nyarko, Larentowicz, Alex (Paladini '40), Lindpere (Amarikwa '65), Magee, Rolfe (Pause '81) Subs not used: Kann, Santos, Videira, Jumper
Houston: Hall, Sarkodie, Boswell, Taylor, Ashe, Moffat, Garcia, Driver (Davis '15), Clark (Creavalle '69), Barnes, Weaver (Johnson '79) Subs not used: Deric, Dixon, Chabala, Brunner
Referee: Ricardo Salazar