Another strong performance by the resurgent San Jose Earthquakes
Lenhart notched the game-winning goal with a diving header, while Dawkins scored in injury time to ensure the Earthquakes extended their MLS unbeaten streak to five games. For the Dynamo, the defeat represents their seventh straight game without a win.
Both teams found the early goings difficult, largely thanks to the slippery conditions at Buck Shaw Stadium after a day of on-and-off rain in the Bay Area. Houston looked more comfortable to start, as Lovel Palmer tested Jon Busch early, while will Bruin had a dangerous low cross cut out by Jason Hernandez just before any Dynamo player could reach it.
Though Bobby Convey started at left back with Ramiro Corrales at left wing in a similar set up to last week's game at Chicago, the Earthquakes started to look more effective when Convey pushed forward more. He and Sam Cronin supplied some dangerous balls forward, but the Earthquakes' front line couldn't make the anything of them.
Steven Lenhart in particular had a few promising runs, but wasn't fast enough to pull the trigger and get a shot on goal. On the half-hour mark, Lenhart drew a foul inside the Houston half and Anthony Ampaipitakwong swung in a dangerous-looking free kick, but the ball just barely avoided the onrushing Lenhart, allowing Tally Hall to claim it easily.
Corrales nearly found Ampaipitakwong with a right-footed cross, but the rookie midfielder nodded it straight at Hall for a difficult position. On the other end, Brad Davis played in Geoff Cameron, who beat two defenders to find himself free on goal, but Busch did well to turn the attempt behind for a corner, ensuring a 0-0 deadlock going into the break.
A well-worked play between Cronin and Lenhart saw a great chance for San Jose early in the half, but Lenhart was unable to put his sliding finish on target in the face of the onrushing Hall. The Earthquakes continued to press for a goal in the early stages of the second half, but weren't able to seriously test Hall, though Sam Cronin had a shot deflected out for a corner kick.
The pressure started to get to the Dynamo around the hour mark, as Mike Chabala was shown the game's first yellow card after taking down a streaking Bobby Convey. Stephenson collected the ball after the resulting free kick and flashed a shot just wide of the far post from a narrow angle.
Houston was looking more dangerous on the break, but was caught out in the 69th minute. Earthquakes right back Steven Beitashour found himself with acres of space to pick out Steven Lenhart, who broke free of his marker to thump home the header. the goal was Steven Lenhart's first for the Earthquakes after his effort against Columbus was credited to Brandon McDonald, while Beitashour picked up his first career assist on the play.
The strategies of the two teams gradually shifted after the goal, with the Earthquakes more content to sit back and catch Houston on the break. Jason Hernandez made a diving header at the far post to clear behind and deny the lurking Will Bruin a great chance, while Colin Clark had a fierce shot deflected wide on the ensuing corner kick.
There was an element of controversy when, with ten minutes left, Corey Ashe hauled down Lenhart right along the edge of the area. The home side was adamant in demanding a penalty, but referee Alex Prus signaled for a free kick right on the edge of the area that Hall saved comfortably.
Minutes later, Jon Busch produced a stunning save after Colin Clark found Cam Weaver free in the six yard box. The former Earthquakes connected with an excellent snap header, but Busch read it perfectly, getting down low to his left to parry it away.
Houston continued to pile on the pressure as the game drifted into stoppages, cussing some nervous moments for the Earthquakes. In the 91st minute, though, the home side iced the game as Sam Cronin's through ball split the Dynamo defense, leaving substitute Simon Dawkins free for a simple finish past Tally Hall.
You can follow Nick Rosano on Twitter for more Earthquakes and MLS chatter @nicholasrosano.
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