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Eastern Conference Championship

Houston's Ching stings Rapids again

Brian Ching is rapidly becoming Public Enemy No. 1 in Colorado. After scoring four goals in Houston Dynamo's first-ever victory, a 5-2 opening day victory against the Colorado Rapids, his early goal Saturday evening was the difference as Dynamo again prevailed with a 1-0 victory as the teams met at Invesco Field.

Rapids defender Pablo Mastroeni nearly gifted the Dynamo the opening goal in the fourth minute when his errant clearance went straight across the box to a wide open Alejandro Moreno. Goalkeeper Joe Cannon quickly stormed out to cut off the angle, forcing Moreno to attempt to dribble around him. Moreno went down after some apparent contact with Cannon, but Canadian referee Silvio Petrescu ruled that there was no foul on the play.

Ching's goal in the 16th minute broke a long spell of midfield play. From a corner, he broke free in the box, but Cannon was able to make the save of the hard header. The Hawaiian-born striker however was perfectly placed to put his own rebound into the roof of the goal.

The Rapids sputtering offense showed some signs of life in the 25th minute with Jovan Kirovski, after a cross, playing the ball back to Kyle Beckerman at the top of the box. Beckerman did well to avoid two onrushing Dynamo defenders, but his shot was well over the bar.

The Rapids started to look better in the latter part of the first half, showing a good workrate and willingness to take shots from outside of the box. Winger Terry Cooke had one such effort in the 30th minute, and while his shot went wide it nearly connected with onrushing forward Nicolas Hernandez.

The Rapids had their best chance of the half in the 32nd minute from a Clint Mathis free kick. His shot from all of 30 yards appeared to be headed straight at Dynamo 'keeper Pat Onstad, but it was struck with deceiving speed and Onstad fumbled it off of his chest and was lucky to push it back over the bar for a corner kick.

The Rapids were again unlucky to score in the 36th minute. Dedi Ben Dayan's pass across the top of the box seemed to be a perfect setup for Hernadez, but the Argentinean striker sent his shot over the bar.

Mathis looked dangerous with his free kicks all night long. His strike in the 39th minute was well taken, but Dynamo defender Adrian Serioux was able to just flick it out of danger for a corner.

It was from a corner in the 41st minute that the Rapids again came close to scoring. Cooke's service went to the head of Mike Petke, who directed it to Hernandez. His acrobatic spinning volley, however, caromed off the post and out for a goal kick.

Dynamo nearly had another goal early in the second half. A long Onstad punt found Ching in the Rapids penalty area. Ching laid it back to Dwayne De Rosario, who in turn laid it back to an onrushing Brian Mullan. Mullan's hard shot was out of reach of Cannon but also went just over the bar.

Although the Rapids were controlling more of the game, Houston continued to look dangerous on the break. Mullan had two good chances on one counterattack in the 53rd minute. His centering pass across the mouth of the goal was cleared right back to him by Mastroeni, who seemed at times uncomfortable in his role in the center of defense. Mullan was unable to take advantage of this gift, as Mastroeni redeemed himself by blocking the shot.

The Rapids came close to tying the score in the 68th minute. Mathis sent a well-weighted long pass to Hernandez, whose shot was saved by a diving Onstad. Kirovski nearly pounced on the rebound, but Mullan was able to quickly slip in to make the clearance.

Free kicks continued to provide the best chances for the Rapids. There was nothing that a flat-footed Onstad could do but watch on Kirovski's effort from just outside of the box in the 76th minute, but luckily for the beaten 'keeper the shot went off the post.

For yet another occasion this year, Dynamo were left a man down for the final minutes, when Alejandro Moreno was sent off with a second yellow card with 10 minutes left.

The Rapids continuously pushed forward in the waning moments of the game, but Houston was able to weather the storm and hold on for their second victory of the season over the Colorado side.

Geoffrey Urland is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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