The Houston Dynamo dropped a hard-fought contest to the Portland Timbers this evening at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, falling 2-1 despite outshooting the Timbers by a 24-13 margin.
Although Houston created a number of chances over the first half-hour of the contest, Portland struck first thanks to forward Jeremy Ebobisse in the 36th minute. Ebobisse got free down Houston’s right flank and ran onto a diagonal ball from midfielder Sebastian Blanco. The forward took a touch and rifled a low left-footed shot back across the goal and into the lower right corner of the net, past a diving effort from goalkeeper Marko Marić.
Portland captain Diego Valeri made it 2-0 in the 61st minute when he found space at the top of the penalty area and was able to cut onto his favored left foot, firing a low shot that caught the inside the right post and ricocheted into the net.
Houston pulled a goal back in the 85th minute after referee Ismail Elfath whistled for a Dynamo penalty kick after video review. After watching the reply, Elfath ruled that forward Alberth Elis’ header a minute earlier hit the arm of Portland defender Jorge Villafaña. Elis converted the penalty to make it 2-1 with time to play. With the goal, Elis moved past Giles Barnes for fifth in club history with 32 career goals.
After Ebobisse’s strike, Houston came close to equalizing twice in the next two minutes. First, captain Boniek García fired a right-footed shot just wide of the net from 20 yards. Then in the 38th minute, forward Darwin Quintero broke free on the right flank and played a beautiful centering pass to forward Alberth Elis just inside the penalty area, but the Honduran international’s first-touch shot slid just wide of the far post.
Quintero nearly created the equalizer once again in the 45th minute, playing a smart one-two with forward Mauro Manotas to put Manotas in on goal. Manotas started the play by dummying a pass from defender Adam Lundkvist and allowing the ball to run on to Quintero. Quintero quickly fed it back to Manotas behind the Portland back line, but Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark was quick off his line to deny Manotas a shooting chance.
Despite the loss, Marić came up big for the Dynamo on several occasions, recording a season-high five saves in the contest. He got into the match early with a save from a headed shot by Portland defender Bill Tuiloma in the second minute. Tuiloma found space to get on the end of a free kick from midfielder Diego Valeri, but Marić was well positioned for the easy save.
In the 11th minute, Portland forward Yimmi Chara won a challenge and fired a quick left-footed shot that forced Marić to quickly get low to make the save. Then in the 21st, midfielder Eryk Williamson and then midfielder Sebastian Blanco each forcing Marić into quick reactions. The Croatian goalkeeper parried away Williamson’s effort with his legs, but the rebound came to Blanco, whose shot whistled wide of the near post. Marić was called upon once again in the 35th minute, coming up with a big kick save off of Yimmi Chara after Chara got free down Houston’s left flank.
The Dynamo face the LA Galaxy in their final match in Group F play at 7 p.m. CDT on Thursday, July 23. The match will air live on FS1 and TUDN. Following the group stage, the first- and second-place teams from all six groups will advance to the Round of 16, along with the top four third-place squads based on points earned. Houston will likely need a win over the Galaxy on Thursday to put themselves in position to advance to the knockout rounds.