Conventional wisdom in the MLS Cup Playoffs, at least if you listen to us media types, is that the first legs of home-and-home series are dour affairs, with both sides content to sit back and wait for an opportunity or two on the counter.
Not so Sunday afternoon in Houston at a jam-packed BBVA Compass Stadium (22,101 attendance, best in the history of the building, if you're counting), where both sides went after it and there was no shortage of drama.
Things started slowly as both teams struggled to find their feet and play resembled a demolition derby, i.e. very little possession but a whole lot of contact. It ramped up quickly from there, with United tearing Houston apart on the counter to open the scoring, a no call by Ricardo Salazar just before half changing the course of the game and the Dynamo pouring forward in the second 45 to put the game away.
Boring? Hardly. We can only hope the second leg lives up to its predecessor.
Much has been made about Salazar's no call before the end of the first half, but it could have been rendered relatively meaningless had Boswell not been on the line in the 66th minute.
Lionard Pajoy had to have been incredulous that his goal-bound effort didn't ripple the net, a tally that would have given D.C. a 2-1 lead, but there was Boswell to head the ball out of danger. Just a minute later, Will Bruin bundled the ball past Joe Willis for a 2-1 lead, an advantage Houston pushed to 3-1 late in the match.
Sure, the no-call on Hainault's takedown of Raphael Augusto changed the course of this series, but United certainly could have still walked out victors had Houston's veteran center back (a former United player, no less) not been in the right place at the right time.
They fell like flies.
First, it was Chris Pontius, who was forced out after just 12 minutes with a groin strain, the worst possible scenario for D.C. Then Adam Moffat fell by the wayside, a collision with Robbie Russell leaving him with what was described as a "chest injury." Marcelo Saragosa and Brandon McDonald followed, a hamstring and calf strain rendering them unable to continue.
And that was with plenty from each side already sidelined through injury: Ricardo Clark, Calen Carr and Jermaine Taylor for Houston and D.C. without talisman Dwayne De Rosario and others struggling with their own knocks.
Thankfully, both sides have a week to pack the training room and attempt to recover.
United may be down two goals, but if they can get healthy, don't bet against Ben Olsen's squad. On the flip side, if Dominic Kinnear has Clark and Carr at his disposal, the task is going to be gargantuan for D.C.