Escaping Houston with a point has never, over the course of the Dynamo's existence, been a bad result. Dom Kinnear's boys have never shied away from embracing the little things that make winning on at home a habit - they're always physical, always organized, and always handle the heat better than visitors can.
That said, the Fire came one blown handball call away from claiming all the points Saturday night. It wasn't a dominant performance, but it was a good one, and especially encouraging considering the Men in Red's previously horrible efforts against teams above them in the standings.
HTIOT Man of the Match
Jalil Anibaba, 8/10 - I have been consistently critical of the decision to stick Jalil at right back, but for this week at least he's won me over. Houston consistently shifted the ball left to attack Anibaba's part of the pitch, especially once Brad Davis came on for Andrew Driver, and the third-year man was fantastic, winning the ball up and down the left sideline. His physicality can cause smaller wingers problems if he can avoid fouling, which he did Saturday.
Paolo Tornaghi, 8/10 - Magnificent showing for our Italian netminder. Saved Soumare's bacon on yet another brain fart in first-half stoppage time. Couldn't do much on the goal as the Dynamo knifed through the defense unchecked. Incredible foot save on a breakaway in the 83rd to preserve the draw.
Austin Berry, 6/10 - Better from the second-year man - much better. Would have scored higher if he'd found a way to close out Davis on the goal. Knew Anibaba was dealing with Davis all night and helped out on the wing a couple of times. Losing marks on set pieces is a team issue, so I'm not going to get into the Boswell header in the 17th that was called back for offside - I'll just say, "Hey, guys, way to hold the offside line." But please for the love of all that is holy find someone to mark, plzkkthx?
Bakary Soumare, 4/10 - SOMEONE WAKE UP BAKY. IT IS GAME TIME. On his day, Soumare can be absolutely dominating, but his tendency to drift into an alternate dimension while the ball is in play is hard to countenance. This game's Soumare Special was a squibbed back-pass in first-half stoppage time. In his first stint with the Fire, we assumed these mistakes were down to youth. Now?
Gonzalo Segares, 6/10 - Had his hands full defensively with Boniek Garcia and did well. Garcia's tendency to turn inward meant he and Lindpere had to do a lot of communicating, and sometimes Lindpere wasn't on the same page. Had little joy going forward, as the quickness of the Garcia/Sarkodie tandem down that flank seemed to bother him.
Patrick Nyarko, 8/10 - Would have been Man of the Match if he'd tracked Davis' early run into the channel on the Houston goal. The Fire goal was all Patty, pouncing on Corey Ashe before he could turn, winning the ball and delivering the cross on a platter to the feet of Mike Magee. Also worked tirelessly to help Anibaba on the defensive end against the best left midfielder in the league. Another great performance by a player evolving into a Best XI winger.
Jeff Larentowicz, 6/10 - Playing in the middle of the field against Houston is a thankless task - they seldom play down the middle, and they're tough physically, so it's a wonderful combination of vigilance-despite-boredom and constant beatings. Kept the shape well, tackled well, and didn't turn the ball over.
Alex, 5/10 - Had to come out in the 40th after a couple of hard tackles left him hobbling. Displayed his usual knack for being the extra man that helps win possession. Didn't do a lot with the ball, but that could be be design - virtually every pass from him was a switch to one wing or the other.
Joel Lindpere, 4/10 - Anonymous in his hour-plus. Turned the ball over 11 times and completed 11 passes - super! Did get stuck in a few times. This is the kind of performance which lands one on that reserves team which doesn't get enough reps, Mr. Lindpere.
Mike Magee, 7/10 - Mike's heat map shows an almost solid line across the field 35 yards from goal - Houston was very disciplined in their shepherding of Magee and Rolfe, and it showed, as they never found much joy in the two-man game. The 20 seconds leading up to his goal should be required viewing for all young forwards - this is how to play the offside line, kids. Gave all credit to Nyarko in the celebration. Give this man the armband!
Chris Rolfe, 6/10 - Precious few touches for the Fire forwards in this one. Chris did have a couple of chances, and his back-post finish in the 76th could've won the game but for another good save from Tally Hall.
Daniel Paladini, 6/10 - Good to see Danny Pipes back on the pitch, and he was good in just a little more than a half. Played the same role Alex played - second man in, keep the ball moving - but with a little more attacking verve.
Quincy Amarikwa, 5/10 - Came in as the bundle-of-energy sub for Lindpere in the 65th. Completed one (1) pass and turned the ball over eleven (11) times. But for a team looking to put the game on ice, his work rate and stamina were useful, as his pressure made it difficult for Houston to settle possession.
Logan Pause, 6/10 - 10-minute cameo from Wolverine as we closed up shop and sat on the draw. Without much impetus to push the game, settled next to Larentowicz like slipping on a favorite pair of jeans. Kept the ball, controlled the space.