Key errors on the backline laid the groundwork for a 3-0 win by Santos Laguna over the Houston Dynamo Wednesday night in Torreón, Mexico, giving the home team a 3-1 aggregate win in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series.
The result sets up Santos for a semifinals rematch with the Seattle Sounders.
Fill in fullback Warren Creavalle got caught on the wrong side of Mexican international Oribe Peralta and wrestled him to the ground at the spot for a clear penalty midway through the first half after a tepid start to the game. Juan Pablo Rodríguez’s initial penalty kick drew an athletic kick save by Tally Hall, but bad luck struck as the ball bounced off the ground, ricocheted off the crossbar and Rodríguez easily beat Adam Moffat to the rebound to bundle in the series equalizer in the 23rd minute.
Five minutes later things went further south.
After a Houston giveaway in the midfield, Néstor Calderón played a seemingly harmless ball into space that saw Hall and defender Bobby Boswell cross wires. With Hall off his line, neither Dynamo man made a play on the ball, leaving Herculez Gomez to pounce on the indecision. He one-timed a 19-yarder into the far post, giving the Liga MX side a 2-1 aggregate lead.
Houston was not without chances in the first half as they came close to exploiting Santos’ suspect set piece marking twice. First it was a sixth minute Boswell header that did not have enough mustard to challenge Oswaldo Sánchez, and later Rico Clark’s snap header was parried by Sánchez with two follow-up efforts failing to draw blood.
Once down 2-1 and needing just a goal to advance, the Dynamo looked to shake the cobwebs loose at the start of the second half against a Santos squad content to sit back and concede possession. Nonetheless, Houston generally failed to create clear chances, save for another wayward Clark header off a set piece.
Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear adjusted to the tactics by replacing Creavalle with Andrew Driver to push for a goal, but that opened the door for the Santos clincher. On a worked out short corner in the 76th minute, second half sub Marc Crosas was left entirely alone at the back post and hit a shot off Hall’s shoulder and into the roof of the net for the final goal.
The loss ends Houston’s current CCL run, but they return to the tournament later this year. Santos will look to make their way back to the final as they move forward for the second straight year.