HOUSTON – Ricardo Clark helped pump life into the Houston Dynamo’s playoff chances Saturday night at BBVA Compass Stadium, scoring in his first game back from a hamstring injury to push the club to a 2-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps, who were reduced to nine men.
In his first start after missing four games, Clark extended his career-high goal total for a season to six, scoring in the 33rd minute. Raul Rodriguez tacked on the second on a corner-kick header to seal the victory, breaking a three-match winless streak to move the Dynamo to within three points of the red line in the Western Conference with 35 points from 27 games.
Vancouver, meanwhile, were unable to take advantage of Friday's loss by the Supporters’-Shield leading LA Galaxy and remain in second place in the West and in the Shield standings with 45 points from 27 matches – no doubt thanks in part to both Kendall Waston and Matias Laba being sent off for each seeing yellow twice.
The Dynamo’s game-winning goal came when Sheanon Williams sent a ball to the near post where forward Erick "Cubo" Torres – making his first start for Houston – redirected it to the crashing Clark. The midfielder slid through the ball, and it trickled its way across the goal line for a 1-0 Dynamo lead.
Things were made tougher for Vancouver in the 56th minute when Waston was shown the door after picking up his second yellow card for a hard tackle on Giles Barnes. Five minutes earlier Waston was cautioned for a foul from behind on Torres at midfield.
As if that was not enough, Laba saw the same fate in the 64th minute. After fouling Barnes in the 27th minute to pick up his first caution, Laba came in hard on Williams to earn the early shower.
Up two men, Houston took control late and after having two good looks at goal, Rodriguez capped his return from missing two of the last three games with a heel contusion by scoring an 88th-minute goal.
Vancouver were the aggressors early, exploiting their pace to come away with their first dangerous chance in the 25th minute. Darren Mattocks raced by Rodriguez to get in on goal. But Dynamo holding mid Luis Garrido, who came in a minute earlier for the injured DaMarcus Beasley, who left with a left leg injury, raced in to help deflect Mattocks’ shot out for a corner.
Minutes after Clark’s goal, the Whitecaps tried to answer quickly. Alex, who slid into Beasley’s left back spot, beat Mattocks to a cross at the back post to give Vancouver a corner kick in the 38th minute. On the corner, Jordan Smith squared up a solid header that was low, but Brad Davis kick-saved it off the line to maintain the Dynamo lead.
Mattocks had no shortage of attempts as he used his speed to get into good spots all night. He was foiled again in the 41st minute as Houston goalkeeper Tyler Deric just beat him to a ball at the corner of the box to foil his chip attempt. Three minutes after Waston was ejected, Mattocks jumped just in front of David Horst to get on the end of a Russell Teibert cross, but he skied his header.
But after Vancouver went down to nine men, Houston were able to wrest control of the match for good and salt away the much-needed win.
Vancouver are back in action when they play host to the Colorado Rapids on Sept. 9 (10 pm ET on TSN1, RDS2 and MLS LIVE in USA), while the Dynamo return to action Sept. 12 at home against Real Salt Lake (8:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).