Though Austin Bold FC made the Houston Dynamo sweat a bit in the opening match of their U.S. Open Cup title defense, the 2018 winners held their nerve to dispatch the USL Championship expansion side and advance to the tournament's fifth round on Tuesday night.
La Naranja sprinted out to a 3-0 halftime lead at BBVA Compass Stadium, powered by well-crafted goals from Tomas Martinez, Ronaldo Pena (making his return from a knee injury) and Matias Vera. Austin stormed back into contention after the break, however, via Xavier Baez's deflected free kick and a clinical finish of a rebound by substitute Isaac Promise.
That set up a tense conclusion to the affair, with the possibility of a dramatic equalizer and perhaps extra time hanging heavy in the Houston air. Yet Bold FC could not conjure up any more fireworks and their inaugural Open Cup campaign skids to a halt in the fourth round, with the Dynamo moving on.
- 14' - HOU - Tomas Martinez | WATCH
- 31' - HOU - Ronaldo Pena | WATCH
- 40' - HOU - Matias Vera | WATCH
- 48' - AUS - Xavier Baez | WATCH
- 56' - AUS - Isaac Promise | WATCH
- THE BIG PICTURE: Fielding several reserves, the Dynamo did just enough to win this one, and given the hot, busy summer ahead, coach Wilmer Cabrera probably won't be overly perturbed by the plucky underdogs' late rally as he looks to keep his squad fresh, fit and competitive on multiple fronts.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Vera's emphatic pass-and-move-and-finish, made possible by a clever pirouette backheel from Pena, gave La Naranja the cushion that, as it turned out, they would need:
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Since his arrival in Houston he's come under scrutiny for his hot-and-cold displays in an influential role (and on a high salary), but Tomas Martinez led the way in several respects on Tuesday, not least by bagging a goal and an assist.
- HOU: June 18–23, Open Cup Round of 16 vs. vs. FC Dallas or OKC Energy FC (ESPN+)
- AUS: Saturday, June 15 vs. Tacoma Defiance, USL (8:30 pm ET | ESPN+)