Playing their second away match of the season, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (1W-2L-2D) suffered a 3-1 defeat to Eastern Conference club Houston Dynamo (1W-1L-2D) in Major League Soccer action on Sunday.
First-half goals by the Dynamo's Cam Weaver and Bobby Boswell set the Texas-based outfit on their way to their first win of the season, despite Camilo briefly drawing Whitecaps FC level before the break. Houston rookie Will Bruin sealed all three points for Dominic Kinnear's side with a late second-half strike at Robertson Stadium in Houston, Texas.
I'm definitely not happy with today's result," said Whitecaps FC head coach Teitur Thordarson. "I thought our first half was decent, as we kept our shape quite well. We didn't manage to create many chances today, though we did score one goal. However, we let in two set-piece goals in the first half, which we should never have conceded. These were mistakes from our side. In the second half, I thought our team struggled to find the energy needed to get back into the match. That allowed things to open up and gave Houston the opportunity to create more chances on us."
Suspension and injuries forced Thordarson into more changes for the Houston game, though captain Jay DeMerit returned to the starting XI after missing the last two games with a groin injury. With Terry Dunfield and Gershon Koffie unavailable, Vancouver pushed Alain Rochat into central midfield alongside MLS debutant and Budweiser Man of the Match Jeb Brovsky. Davide Chiumiento also came in on the right-hand side of midfield for his second start of the season. Youngsters Omar Salgado and Russell Teibert started on the 'Caps substitutes bench after the pair returned from U-20 international duty with the United States and Canada respectively.
It was a hot and breezy evening in Space City, and with plenty of Dynamo orange to be seen throughout Robertson Stadium, the Houston fans saw the home side have much of the possession and dominate in the statistical department.
With experienced goalscorer Brian Ching out through injury, youngster Bruin partnered Weaver in Houston's attack. Bruin had two early chances for the Dynamo, first heading a Hunter Freeman byline cross wide of goal on nine minutes before striking a shot high and wide a minute later.
There were not many attacks from the Blue and White before halftime, but on 16 minutes, Camilo felt he earned the visitors a second penalty in as many games after colliding with Houston's Canadian international defender Andre Hainault in the Dynamo box. Match referee Jair Marrufo, however, waved away the Brazilian's appeals.
One of Houston's main threats on Sunday was midfielder Danny Cruz. On 28 minutes, a dangerous forward run saw Cruz hit the top of the Vancouver crossbar with a fine right-footed strike. Three minute later, Cruz tried to catch Whitecaps FC on the break, but his tight-angle shot rolled across the face of Vancouver's goal.
Houston's pressure started to have an impact, and on 37 minutes, the Dynamo made the breakthrough with a second goal of the season for Weaver. The former Seattle Sounders man was left unmarked at the far post to convert Brad Davis' corner that was flicked on at the near post by Boswell for a 1-0 Houston lead.
Yet, as the home fans were celebrating Weaver's goal, Whitecaps FC immediately responded to level matters a minute later. Chiumiento's fine through ball from the edge of Dynamo box went through the legs of Houston's Corey Ashe and found Camilo. The South American's excellent turn and finish beat Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall to make it 1-1.
Houston claimed their match winner with a second goal that resulted from a half-cleared Davis corner on 42 minutes. Cruz's ball back into the 'Caps box allowed Boswell to beat Vancouver's offside trap and redirect the ball past Whitecaps FC goalkeeper Jay Nolly for his first goal of the season and a 2-1 Houston lead at the break. It was the third goal scored in the space of five first-half minutes.
One major concern was the fitness of captain DeMerit, who was forced off at the break with a re-aggravation of his groin injury. The centre back's injury meant Thordarson had to shuffle his line-up again for the second half, with Teibert coming on for the Vancouver skipper and playing on the left-hand side of midfield. Nizar Khalfan moved into central midfield, while Rochat moved back to partner Michael Boxall in the centre of the Whitecaps FC backline.
Though they had a strong breeze at their backs, Vancouver struggled to make many goalscoring opportunities. Khalfan tested Hall with a low strike soon after the restart, while right fullback Jonathan Leathers volleyed a Teibert corner high and wide on a tight angle after the hour mark.
Houston, meanwhile, remained a threat going forward, with Bruin forcing Nolly into an important save on 70 minutes after dispossessing Khalfan in the Vancouver half. However, the 11th overall pick in this year's MLS SuperDraft would not be denied his first goal of the season on 76 minutes.
Again, it was the dangerous Davis that created Houston's third goal by freeing Bruin with a fine through ball, as the former Indiana University star got in behind Boxall and Rochat. Nolly came rushing out of his box to try and stop the Dynamo striker, but Bruin did well to round him and slot the ball into empty net for a 3-1 scoreline.
Any chances of a late comeback seemed remote, as the 'Caps looked like the week's worth of MLS action had caught up to them in the Texas heat. On 80 minutes, Nolly did well to deny Davis after stopping his free-kick strike from the edge of the Vancouver box.
There were some positive signs in the dying stages of Sunday's game. Salgado and Mouloud Akloul each made their MLS debuts against Dynamo, with the pair sure to be looked upon by Thordarson in the weeks ahead.
As for Sunday's match in Texas, the final whistle confirmed a well-deserved win for the Dynamo, with Whitecaps FC now needing to rebound from this second away defeat of the year.
The 'Caps return home for their next two matches, starting next Saturday versus Western Conference rivals Chivas USA at Empire Field. Houston, meanwhile, will have a week to prepare for the arrival of Eastern Conference rivals New England Revolution to Robertson Stadium next Sunday.
37' - HOU - Cam Weaver (Bobby Boswell, Brad Davis)
38' - VAN - Camilo (Davide Chiumiento)
42' - HOU - Bobby Boswell (Danny Cruz, Brad Davis)
76' - HOU - Will Bruin (Brad Davis)
Shots: Houston 19 - Vancouver 5
Shots on Goal: Houston 5 - Vancouver 2
Saves: Houston 1 - Vancouver 2
Fouls: Houston 14 - Vancouver 11
Offsides: Houston 3 - Vancouver 3
Corners: Houston 7 - Vancouver 3
35' - VAN - Jonathan Leathers
56' - VAN - Alain Rochat
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
18.Jay Nolly; 25.Jonathan Leathers, 6.Jay DeMerit (31.Russell Teibert 45'), 2.Michael Boxall, 19.Blake Wagner; 20.Davide Chiumiento, 12.Jeb Brovsky, 4.Alain Rochat, 16.Nizar Khalfan (50.Mouloud Akloul 79'), 37.Camilo (17.Omar Salgado 84'), 9.Atiba Harris
Subs not used: 1.Joe Cannon, 3.Bilal Duckett, 8.Wes Knight, 32.Kevin Harmse
1.Tally Hall; 21.Hunter Freeman, 32.Bobby Boswell, 31.Andre Hainault, 26.Corey Ashe; 5.Danny Cruz, 22.Lovel Palmer, 20.Geoff Cameron, 11.Brad Davis (7.Colin Clark 90' +); 15.Cam Weaver (9.Jason Garey 84'), 12.Will Bruin
Subs not used: 24.Tyler Deric, 2.Eddie Robinson, 8.Kofi Sarkodie, 17.Mike Chabala, 19.Alex Dixon