Weaver for Barnes 60'
Cummings for Creavalle 74'
Moffat for Clark 89'
Russel for Convey 80'
It didn't look like anyone was going to be able to win this game, and that's pretty much how it played out. Toronto FC got another point on the road, settling on a goalless draw with the rusty Dynamo in the oppressive South Texas heat. No one scored a goal, despite furious attempts from both sides to try to get some advantage.
Yeah, it would have been nice to get another result away from home and especially against a team that is currently occupying a playoff slot, but not everything in this world is perfect. But in the first 20 minutes, it almost seemed as though TFC could somehow pull it off: Robert Earnshaw would be in on the act, getting a shot off in the 5th minute that was partially blocked and thus an easy save for Tally Hall. Jonathan Osorio and Luis Silva both had average games, but in that early stage of the first half some neat link up play almost got the ball through to Earnshaw in good positions a couple of times. Bobby Convey, set free on the left by Jeremy Hall who himself could have opted to shoot but didn't, pulled a hard shot/cross across the face of goal but again Earnshaw couldn't quite get on the end of it.
And when you give your opponents a lifeline, chances are they will take it -- especially when they are the Houston Dynamo. It took them about 25 minutes to find their groove, but when they did Ryan Richter and Doneil Henry (the latter starting in the place of the shaky but still better Gale Agbossoumonde, who was on the bench for the match) were put under the cosh immediately, and both looked rather shaky. Even without Boniek Garcia, there was still Corey Ashe and Kofi Sarkodie to push up, forcing Warren Creavalle farther forward to make TFC defenders' lives uncomfortable, giving Joe Bendik more work.
Lucky for Bendik though, the Dynamo showed their rust throughout the match; Will Bruin had a chance at goal in the 23rd minute, but was blocked more or less on the line by the knee of defensive hero Steven Caldwell, who had an excellent match twice in a row and fast becoming a necessity on the Toronto backline. Three minutes later, another chance would go off Bruin's head and over the goal. On top of this, Houston's attackers had 11 corners in the match, with only one remotely threatening at the latter stage of the first half when Ashe was left completely alone to challenge Bendik for the ball, but was fortunately punched away.
The second half started pretty much like the first, TFC getting on top and then falling away a little. Cam Weaver was brought on in the 63rd minute followed by Omar Cummings 11 minutes later but neither made much of a difference much to the relief of the fragile back. Likely sensing an opportunity, Earnshaw was withdrawn in favour of Danny Koevermans in the 77th minute, and the Dutch DP almost made the Dynamo pay for a small lapse in the 85th minute with a good shot that was kept out by Hall; Jeremy Brockie would also have a goal that was saved to preserve the draw.
And if you were surprised that tonight went without a single card, you'd be shocked to know who was in charge: none other than Ricardo Salazar, the king of cards and penalties. However neither team incurred his wrath enough to warrant any cards, and here we are -- a complete clean sheet. Granted we still saw some of the old defensive shakiness, and both Earnshaw and Silva had relatively bad games (the former guilty of not taking chances and wasting ones that are generated), but seeing Koevermans with a golden chance to snatch yet another road victory is definitely an encouraging sign.
It's not the best kind of clean scoresheet, but in the past few months (and for this writer these past few days), we'd have taken anything we can get, and so we will here. It's too early to say it's the start of anything, but we can only dream that it is.
* * *
WTR'S GOLDEN TROPHIES/KICKS TO THE GROIN...
|Kick to the Groin: Robert Earnshaw
||Just accept that not every cross is going to be beautiful.
|Golden Trophy: Ricardo Salazar||No cards? No penalties? Who is this?
|Golden Trophy: Steven Caldwell
||A beast in the back.
| Golden Trophy: Joe Bendik
||Cling on to save the game, but...
Kick to the Groin: Joe Bendik
||...but then there were the same old, same old moments.
|Shots on Target||4||3|
|Passing Accuracy (%)||80||66|