FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The Houston Dynamo maintained its grasp on fourth place in the Eastern Conference with a 1-1 draw on the road against the New England Revolution on Saturday night.
New England appeared on course to collect all three points when Saer Sene opened the scoring with a rasping, sharp-angle drive after 64 minutes. But Will Bruin produced the Dynamo's response after 76 minutes to ensure the visitors claimed a share of the spoils in a tense affair at Gillette Stadium.
The stalemate left Houston two points clear in the race for fourth place, while the Revs closed within a point of the fifth-placed Philadelphia Union (with the Chicago Fire still left to finish its game against the Montréal Impact after the final whistle).
The significant stakes took their toll on the first-half proceedings. Houston dictated the terms of the affair with the Revs struggling to find their usual cadence in possession or operate fluidly through the middle of the park.
In a half with just one shot on goal combined between the two sides, the modest threats usually came from set pieces. Giles Barnes forced Matt Reis into an easy save from a Dynamo free kick and Chris Tierney smacked a sharp-angle free kick off the near post before Tally Hall pushed away the potential rebound off the carom.
Neither side, however, managed to create a clear-cut chance from the run of play before the halftime whistle. Matters improved a bit after the interval as Houston started brightly and New England eventually inserted the returning Juan Agudelo to turn the proceedings.
Agudelo replaced the injured Imbongo after 62 minutes and immediately sparked his side to life. The returning forward created space with his movement and laid the groundwork for the opener by finding a way to pull apart Houston for the first time all night.
The home side took advantage of its uptick in confidence and incisiveness to swing the ball from left to right to create the opener. The tidy move ultimately caught the Dynamo's defensive shape in flux and funneled the ball to Sene on the right side of the penalty area. Sene collected and then smashed home the opener for his fifth goal of the season.
Agudelo lashed a half-volley over the bar as the Revs searched for a killer second, but Houston adjusted its formation from a 4-4-2 to a 3-5-2 and threw Cam Weaver into the fray to alter the calculus. The changes reaped immediate dividends through the equalizer in the final quarter of an hour.
Houston applied ample pressure with a direct move from back to front and claimed the benefits with a scuffed clearance after Weaver squared inside the penalty area. Boniek Garcia collected and then slotted a wonderfully weighted ball to Bruin near the penalty spot. Bruin corralled neatly and thumped his eighth goal of the campaign off the underside of the crossbar to level the proceedings.
New England searched for the winner in the late stages with Agudelo and Sene both going close, but it never arrived to ensure both teams completed this dogged affair with a share of the spoils.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Jose Goncalves||Never set a foot wrong against a Houston team that did not create much, and was not to blame for the Dynamo's eqalizer in the 76th minute.|
|2||Bobby Boswell||The veteran center back helped stymie New England's offense and also was a viable threat on set pieces for Houston.|
|3||Juan Agudelo||Returning from injury, Agudelo immediately sparked some life into New England's attack after coming off the bench. He helped set up the opener and nearly scored on two seperate opportunities.|