Thirty minutes into Tuesday's US Open Cup semifinal at Sporting Park, the Houston Dynamo were feeling good. They were controlling the tempo and creating chances against a Sporting Kansas City team that sputtered out of the gates.
Things changed when Luis Garrido was shown the door for a reckless challenge on Amadou Dia in the 30th minute, putting the Dynamo down a man and sentencing the visitors to 60 minutes of chasing and defending in what turned out to be a 3-1 loss.
“That’s what changes the game. We came out and I think we were the better team the first 30 minutes to be honest with you, and I don’t think they would necessarily argue that either,” Dynamo captain Brad Davis told MLSsoccer.com after the game. “I thought the guys did a great job and all of a sudden we lose our discipline and there you go the game changed.
“Credit to the guys for fighting so hard, but with a team like KC they did well to finally get themselves back into the game. It’s not easy to defend for 60 minutes of a game like that.”
There was not much argument about Garrido’s fate. The midfielder came in with both feet and the challenge warranted the quick decision from referee Ted Unkel.
“For me it was a red card. Luis had been very foolish,” head coach Owen Coyle told MLSsoccer.com. “From then on we’re battling on with 10 men. Again, we showed the spirit we have, we showed the belief we had and we go a goal up and the lads showed the power to see the game through.”
On the other end, the Dynamo had a case that the game should have finished 10 vs. 10. After a foul by Ricardo Clark on Roger Espinoza, the Honduran engaged Davis in an argument and looked to deliver a blow to the Dynamo captain’s face with the Dynamo leading 1-0 on Will Bruin’s 59th-minute goal.
“At that point at 1-0, Roger Espinoza, who's a great lad and I know very well, he’s punched Brad Davis in the face and there’s been no punishment,” Coyle said. “It should be 10-v-10 with us leading 1-nil. Eleven-v-11, we were the team in the ascendency. We knew it was going to be a tough game … I’ve got to say every one of those lads are a credit to themselves.”
Both before and after the red card the Dynamo kept engaged, and kept things even. Houston had the best chance in the first half when Bruin scored his 50th professional goal in all competitions to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
After Joe Willis saved a Dom Dwyer penalty kick, it looked as if things were heading for a positive result for the Orange.
“That definitely gave the guys a boost of confidence for sure,” Davis said. “Joe makes that save and the guys were definitely buzzing after that. Confidence got high and then the part with Espinoza, we should have been 10 on 10.”
With tired legs, however, the floor dropped out on the Dynamo. Spaces opened up for Sporting, and with Benny Feilhaber leading the way, KC charged past the Dynamo, ending their run in the US Open Cup but leaving Coyle positive with the way his players fought.
“The only disappointment tonight was the result,” Coyle said. “They’ve worked their socks off and are credit to themselves. We felt we certainly merited more than losing 3-1 in the game.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.