HOUSTON — Mehdi Ballouchy sent Houston’s largest crowd of the season home upset, heading home a 91st-minute equalizer to save a 2-2 road draw for the New York Red Bulls on Saturday night at the Dynamo’s Robertson Stadium.
Ballouchy battled for space at the near post and found himself on the end of a Joel Lindpere corner kick. He snapped a quality header past Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall to give the two teams, battling for the Eastern Conference lead, a share of the spoils. New York keep a two-point lead on the Dynamo in the Eastern Conference standings.
Would-be Houston hero Koke had broken a 1-1 stalemate in the 82nd minute, knocking in the rebound of a Geoff Cameron header off a corner kick. Koke — whose goal opened his MLS account — made a lunging effort to beat two New York defenders to the loose ball and push it past ‘keeper Greg Sutton.
The late activity came on the heels of an open and fast-paced first half.
Dane Richards took just 39 seconds to give New York 1-0 lead, smashing a Luke Rodgers knock-down past a diving Hall. Richards — who said during the week he would take the chance to quiet the Dynamo crowd if he got it — was a menace throughout the night for the Red Bulls. His goal was both the fastest scored in Red Bull history and the fastest conceded in Dynamo history.
New York’s lead didn’t last long, as Brad Davis converted a penalty in the 12th minute. Rookie Will Bruin drew the foul from Rafa Márquez, whose attempted slide tackle in the box caught the forward’s ankle. Davis stepped up and calmly hit low shot to Sutton’s left for his first goal of the season.
The early goals were the highlights of an active first half that featured plenty of chances. Both teams pushed forward, chasing a second goal, and only a series of quality defensive clearances from both sides prevented the breakthrough.
New York avoided a 34th-minute disaster as former Dynamo midfielder Dwayne De Rosario nearly headed in an own-goal off a Houston corner, but Sutton pushed it over the bar.
The late goals saved a second half that was more about physicality than technical quality. Three yellow cards were handed out — Bobby Boswell joined Davis and Márquez in the book — and a number of fouls were called providing ample free kick chances.
Saturday’s draw will send Houston (3-3-5, 14 points) to the west coast for a May 25 match with the LA Galaxy. The draw drops the Red Bulls (4-2-4, 16 points) behind the Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference standings ahead of a May 25 home match against defending MLS Cup Champion Colorado Rapids at Red Bull Arena.
NY -- Dane Richards 2 (Luke Rodgers 2) 1
HOU -- Brad Davis 1 (penalty kick) 12
HOU -- Koke 1 (unassisted) 82
NY -- Mehdi Ballouchy 1 (Joel Lindpere 1) 91+
New York Red Bulls -- Greg Sutton, Jan Gunnar Solli, Rafael Marquez, Tim Ream, Roy Miller, Dane Richards, Dwayne De Rosario, Teemu Tainio, Joel Lindpere, Luke Rodgers (Corey Hertzog 89), Juan Agudelo (Mehdi Ballouchy 79).
Substitutes Not Used: Matt Kassel, Stephen Keel, Carlos Mendes, John Rooney, Bouna Coundoul.
Houston Dynamo -- Tally Hall, Hunter Freeman, Bobby Boswell, Andre Hainault, Corey Ashe, Colin Clark (Je-Vaughn Watson 69), Geoff Cameron, Lovel Palmer, Brad Davis (Mike Chabala 85), Cam Weaver, Will Bruin (Koke 74).
Substitutes Not Used: Jason Garey, Kofi Sarkodie, Jermaine Taylor, Tyler Deric.
HOU -- Bobby Boswell (caution; Reckless Tackle) 50
NY -- Rafael Marquez (caution; Reckless Tackle) 62
HOU -- Brad Davis (caution; Reckless Foul) 64
Referee: Juan Guzman
Referee's Assistants: -Greg Barkey; Ian Anderson
4th Official: Baldomero Toledo
Time of Game: 1:52
Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-85-degrees