HOUSTON - The Houston Dynamo and LA Galaxy were locked in a tight and scoreless affair, but the former used key plays from David Horst, Mark Sherrod and Giles Barnes to pick up a 1-0 win at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Horst's moment, however, was the most important as far as Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear was concerned.
"David's [goal-line clearance] for sure," Kinnear said when asked what he thought the play of the game was. "It's early in the first half, I think it gave guys a lift and it's not always a goal that gives teams an emotional lift. Sometimes it's a big defensive play."
LA looked primed to put their stamp on the game in the 39th minute when Robbie Keane had played AJ DeLaGarza into a vacant space of the left side of Houston's 18-yard box. DeLaGarza then proceeded to beat goalkeeper Tally Hall with a curled effort, only to see Horst clear it off the goal line with a headed effort.
"It's what I was taught as a center back growing up," Horst said. "When the ball swings wide like that, just come in behind the backside of the goalie in case it sneaks in underneath him or sneaks in behind him. DeLaGarza got a good shot off and it got past Tally and I was able to make a good play."
Added Dynamo defender Corey Ashe: "It happened so quickly and the first thing that came to my mind was, 'He's so big,' and I think if that was me it would've went straight over my head. Sometimes you need that spark to get the team going and I think that was the play."
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Horst's headed clearance kept the game scoreless at a time when a goal would have been deflating for the Dynamo. It also paved the way for another key moment, one that saw some miscommunication from LA goalkeeper Jaime Penedo and right back Dan Gargan lead to a mistake that Sherrod pounced on before hitting Barnes with a pass that the Englishman hit home with a class effort.
"Sometimes you need those moments of extra effort to get you a win and to keep goals off the board and put goals on the board," Kinnear said. "Both guys with their heads-up play, one to keep them from scoring and one to get us on the board was really helpful for us.
"It was a great finish. If Giles puts it somewhere else it could've been blocked, so he hit the perfect spot. Sometimes it's just taking advantage of mistakes and that's what we did tonight."
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.