GOMEZ, PACHUCA FALL TO HOUSTON IN SUPERLIGA
In the opening game of Superliga group B play, the Houston Dynamo and Pachuca CF played a close game, but despite the Mexican team's continuous possession, the MLS franchise took the vital three points.
Two Joseph Ngwenya goals for Houston was enough to beat a tough Pachuca team on a hot and steamy night in Houston, Texas.
This season will be the first for US National Team player Herculez Gomez with Pachuca after an impressive season with Puebla.
He joins fellow Americans Jose Francisco Torres, the well established midfielder and Pachuca academy product, and Marco Vidal, the Dallas, Texas native.
The opening minutes were dominated by Pachuca's superior ball possession, which would be a pattern for the rest of the night.
The game's first clear opportunity came for the Mexican team. In the sixth minute, a Damian Manso through ball found forward Dario Cvitanich heading straight to goal. Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall would hold his ground and make the save off of a 15-yard shot from Cvitanich.
Houston would find their first scoring chance five minutes later. A Brad Davis free kick went wide about 5 yards, but still caused Pachuca's goalkeeper Miguel Calero to dive to his right.
Soon after, an impressive sequence of three one touch passes, initiated by Torres, finished with a Cvitanich shot that the Dynamo's Hall saved once again.
The first quarter of the game saw Pachuca dominate possession and continuously find gaps in the Houston back line, though impressive goal keeping by Hall kept Houston alive.
"We played a great game, we had more possession and we had more scoring chances," Torres told YA after the game.
In the 19th minute though, the Dynamo would score the game's first goal. A Mike Chabala shot from 25 yards out hit teammate Brian Ching on the way and the rebound fell perfectly in front of Joseph Ngwenya, whose left footed shot found net.
Chabala's initial shot caused Calero to dive to his right, and thus did not have time to gather himself for Ngwenya's upcoming shot.
"Joseph Ngwenya did an incredible job in his first chance. He was alone and just finished it," Pachuca forward Herculez Gomez lamented to YA following the match.
Six minutes later saw another impressive sequence of Pachuca possession in the Dynamo area. Eventually a one-touch pass from Cvitanich found forward Franco Arizala racing to Hall's right. A misplay by Dynamo defender Ryan Cochrane left Arizala free to shoot. His dangerous 12-yard shot was again saved by Hall.
The latter part of the first half saw Houston gain some ball possession, giving a much needed rest to the Dynamo defense.
The beginning of the second half saw Houston's Bobby Boswell go in for defender Eddie Robinson, while Pachuca's Edy Brambila come in for midfielder Braulio Luna.
Pachuca would find net early in the second half in the 51st minute.
At the top of the penalty box, Torres found Monso racing towards Hall's right side and shot to Hall lower left, finally putting Pachuca on the score sheet.
This goal was a reward of continued ball possession in Houston's half for about a minute straight.
In the 56th minute, the Dynamo would sub in left-winger Corey Ashe for Brad Davis.
Moments later, after another pass from Torres, Manso shot a rocket from 25 yards out that rattled the Houston goalkeeper's post.
The 58th minute saw Pachuca sub in Gomez for striker Arizala.
Soon after coming on to the field, Gomez recieved a pass and raced to the right side of the field. The Las Vegas native would shoot wide left and not disturb Hall.
In the 66th minute, Pachuca's Cvitanich raced towards the left side of the field and outmuscled Cochrane to give himself space to shoot. His shot was saved by Houston's Hall once again.
A minute later saw Pachuca take out a frustrated Cvitanich for Luis Montes.
The Dynamo would make their final subs in the 71st minute. Midfielder Adrian Serioux came in for Richard Mulrooney, and Brian Mullan came in for winger Danny Cruz.
Serioux would bring much needed energy to the Houston attack and subsequently give the Dynamo a break from the Pachuca possession.
The 75th minute saw Manso give a through pass to a darting Gomez on Hall's left side. The American's shot though would only hit side netting.
Dynamo winger and sub, Ashe, would also bring much needed energy on the left side of the midfield.
His speed and persistence caused a late Paul Aguilar foul that would result in a yellow card in the 84th minute.
The resulting free kick, close to the corner flag, was kicked by Ashe and found Ngwenya in front of the goal. The Dynamo forward headed the ball near post with much force, beating Calero.
The 90th minute saw Pachuca nearly level the score with a great shot from defender Daniel Arreola, who made a deep run into Houston's side and took his chance from 25 yards out.
Hall was forced to make a difficult save and essentially seal the Dynamo victory.
"In scoring chances, we were up by about seven to two," said Gomez of the Tuzos' offensice threats. "We had many opportunities. We have to play better in front of the goal."
The weather also seemed to be a factor as temperatures reached over 90 degrees, while humidity was very high.
"It's always hard to play as the visiting team here. Conditions are tough with the heat and humidity," added the US international.
"We had to adapt to it, but I think we did enough to get the three points. Unfortunately, a bit sad, we couldn't do it."
The Longview, Texas native Torres left the game feeling disappointed with the result.
"We played well, worked well, and we had good possession of the ball, but this is a game of making goals," explained Torres.
"It was a tough game. We always play Houston, and we know it is going to be tough. It is going to be a hard game, because Houston is a great team, and they defend well. "
"They shift well, and when we try and get into the gaps, they close down very well. I think we had a lot of chances on goal, but we missed them, and like I said, you win games by scoring."
On July 18th both teams will take the field again in Robertson Stadium. Houston will play Chivas USA while Pachuca will take on Puebla.
"This game will be complicated," concluded Torres. "They have a great team, from the coaching staff to the players. They are always prepared to play and now we have some days to practice before we play Puebla."
The Dynamo are tied with three points atop the group B standings in Superliga with Puebla, who also won two to one over Chivas USA in Los Angeles.