The Houston Dynamo started the group stages of the CONCACAF Champions League with a home win over El Salvadorian side Metapon.
A B-side took the field for Houston in the first half, relying heavily on the pace of Cory Ashe and Dominic Oduro to unsettle the resilient and deep backline of the El Salvadorians. Those two combined in the seventh minute with Ashe crossing from the byline. Metapon goalkeeper Alvaro Alfaro clattered into Oduro as he punched the ball off the forward's head.
Alfaro was called into action by Oduro four minutes later as the speedster looped a header toward goal from an arcing Mike Chabala cross.
The game settled down into a scrappy affair after that. Shirt pulling and niggling tackles were rampant as Houston controlled the play but the tough Metapon defense forced the hosts into ineffective wide areas.
Ade Akinbiyi had the next real chance, ten minutes before the half, but pushed his downward header well wide after Brad Davis found him open at the far post.
The tense game spilled over just a tad five minutes before the half. Ashe found himself the victim of two simultaneous challenges: Mario Aguilar swept his feet while Jose Alavarado shoved him over. As Aguilar looked to help the winger to his feet, the American threw the ball at Aguilar's face. Both Aguilar and Ashe received yellows from the referee, and the previously-booked Alvarado was fortunate to avoid punishment.
If the first half was about the raw pace of Ashe and Oduro, the second was about the cultured movement of Stuart Holden and Brian Ching. The U.S. internationals entered at halftime and the hour mark respectively to give the game some needed calm in the final third.
Ten minutes in, Holden announced his intentions by launching a swerving blast from distance that took a quick punch by Alfaro to keep clear.
In the 68th minute, Houston found the breakthrough. A minute earlier, Craig Waibel had played a long diagonal ball into the path of Holden. The open midfielder should have taken it to goal himself, but instead stepped over it for a teammate behind him, unaware that a Metapon defender stood in his way. This time, Holden provided the cutting ball, from the left, to the run of Ching. The Hawaiian striker was selfish enough to take it himself, striking first-time to poke the ball into the corner of the net.
Minutes later, Holden created another golden opportunity. He burst from the midfield and played a small diagonal ball to Oduro. However, the forward's first touch let him down and allowed Ernesto Aquino, who had an excellent match in the heart of Metapon's defense, to touch it out for a corner.
Metapon continued to sit deep despite the deficit. The result was a dearth of chances for either team as the clock ticked towards the final whistle.
Zac Lee Rigg, Goal.com
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