HOUSTON – In a physical CONCACAF Champions League affair Houston Dynamo big man Cam Weaver proved the difference, leading his team to a 2-1 victory over Panamanian outfit Árabe Unido.
Weaver scored a goal in each half to lead the Dynamo back from a one-goal deficit. The result pushed Houston past their visitors and into first place in Group 1 at the halfway mark of the group stage.
The winner came 10 minutes in to the second half after some hard work from Warren Creavalle to keep his charge down the left-hand side alive. Second-half substitute Brad Davis managed to collect the ball and swing a ball to Weaver at the back post, who got ahead of Árabe defender David Daniels to head off the near post and in.
The night started in dubious fashion, however, when Arabe Unido forward Abdiel Arroyo drew an early penalty kick to start the affair. Arroyo went down inside the penalty area with Mike Chabala holding onto his jersey as the forward attempted to hold the ball and Costa Rican referee Hugo Cruz pointed to the spot. Arroyo showed no hesitation in picking up the ball to take the penalty and drove it past Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall for an early lead.
The Dynamo would not trail for long, though. After knocking the ball side-to-side, Corey Ashe finally found space to lift a cross to the back post. Weaver crashed the six-yard-box and volleyed home the attempt.
Along with the goals came several rough challenges. Weaver crumbled in the box from a shot in the abdomen and Ashe engaged in several battles with Árabe Unido right winger Felix Gondola.
The second half started on the same physical note and cards started to flow. By the time Weaver netted his second of the game in the 55th minute, four yellow cards had been issued, including three to Dynamo players.
By the time the final whistle sounded, seven yellow cards had been shown – all in the second half. It was a far cry from the 13 bookings handed out in a 2009 affair between the two teams, but the cautions made for a stop-and-go match that resembled a street fight at times.
The visitors attempted to steal a point in the 82nd minute on a breakaway but Hall and Ashe were up to the task. Hall won a second one-on-one battle, stoning Orlando Rodriguez, and Ashe raced in to block Enrico Small’s follow-up attempt, preserving the victory.
With first place in hand, Houston return to CONCACAF play on Sept. 25, hosting W Connection before heading to Panama for the return leg with Árabe Unido – the likely group decider – on Oct. 24.