The Houston Dynamo’s tough week continued as a 61st-minute goal from Árabe Unido’s José González proved enough to send the MLS club crashing out of the CONACACAF Champions League.
Needing a draw or win to move on, Houston fielded a lineup with nine changes from their last match in MLS play. With the game lacking for chances, the home team was the first team to make substitutions and push the game forward, and it paid off almosty immediately. Four minutes after making two attack-minded changes, the Panamanians struck thanks to some poor defending and a fortunate bounce.
González took his chance when he found enough space to test Dynamo 'keeper Tyler Deric, who made a superb reaction stop but couldn't hold onto the blast. As the ball popped up, González tried again with a looping header that Deric managed to get a hand on, but could not keep out of the net.
The home side started to milk the clock after the goal, taking every opportunity to waste precious seconds. In the end, the goal plus the time-wasting was a successful equation for Unido, as the win sees the Panamanian club through to the quarterfinals for the second time in their history.
Both clubs struggled to get going early in the game, but it was Houston that came alive first. Omar Cummings got three bites at the apple in the span of five minutes, but was unable to capitalize on any of the chances. The best of those came in the 26th minute when Cam Weaver flicked a ball with his head to put the speedy Cummings in, but his shot from an angle found the side-netting. He put his other two chances well over goal, including one from close range.
Unido were not without chances, but never seriously threatened despite some nervy moments from a Dynamo backline that took some time to get together. Looking for something, Árabe forward Orlando Rodríguez tried his luck from outside the box but Deric was in position to scoop it up.
Seven minutes after González picked up the opener, Enrico Small, a second half substitute for the hosts, found himself alone rushing into the box but put his shot well over the goal.
Houston did push late, inserting forwards Will Bruin, Giles Barnes and midfielder Warren Creavalle, shifting to a three-man defense. The changes did not yield a product and Unido was able to put some time-wasting to good use and see out the win.
Houston will return to MLS play on Sunday for a do-or-die regular season finale against D.C. United that will determine their playoff fate.