The Houston Dynamo have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs while giving a huge boost to the Colorado Rapids’ bid to win the Supporter’s Shield for the first time in their history. Dominique Badji and Mauro Manotas had a brace apiece while Albanian International Shkelzen Gashi goal proved the difference as the visitors walked away with a 3 – 2 victory to clinch a first round bye in the playoffs. It’s the first time in Rapids history that they will finish higher than 3rd in their conference.
Though the loss was hard to take, at least it might trip up FC Dallas in their bid for another trophy this season. So….yay?
Badji got on the board early when center back Raul Rodriguez failed to clear the ball as his pass was intercepted by Sebastien Le Toux. The Frenchman slid the ball to Dillon Powers who found Badji for the goal just 12 minutes into the match.
After the goal, the half became a midfield slog as neither side was capable of breaking into the other’s final third, much less threatening the goal with a shot. The game seemed destined to go into the half with the Rapids in the lead when Ricardo Clark pushed the ball wide to an on-rushing Sheanon Williams. The right back one-timed a low cross into the box that Manotas redirected past a diving Tim Howard just before the halftime whistle.
Colorado nearly took the lead a minute later when Badji sent a low, hard shot towards the net but Joe Willis was able to get down and push it wide of the post.
The score didn’t remain level for long when Jalil Anibaba was caught upfield and unable to make a tackle on Dillon Powers. The midfielder spun away from Anibaba and sent a through ball to Badji. The striker, who had been hanging off the shoulder of Rodriguez, turned on the jets and got behind the defense with ease and pulled wide to give himself plenty of space. One v one with the goalkeeper, Willis came out and made himself big but Badji sent his shot past the goalkeeper in the 54th minute to take the lead.
The Rapids started sitting back more, daring the Dynamo to break down their defense. After several half chances, interim head coach Wade Barrett brought in Andrew Wenger and Will Bruin for Clark and Cristian Maidana, respectively. Jose Escalante, recently brought up from Rio Grande Valley FC, came in for Oscar Garcia. Not long after the latter came in, the Rapids took an insurmountable lead.
DaMarcus Beasley played a lofted ball that Escalante failed to control. Michael Azira picked up the loose ball along the far side and sent a long, low cross to Gashi who was all alone. He took a touch to settle himself and blasted home a volley from distance to make the score 3 – 1, with just 11 minutes left in the match.
The Dynamo earned a freekick just outside the far corner of the box, with Beasley, Escalante and Manotas standing over it. The young Colombian blasted his shot low past a seam in the wall that was deflected off a defender and past Howard to make the final minutes interesting. With the goal Mauro leads the team with 6 goals in regular season play, and 9 overall. It’s worth noting that he was also the team leader in goals during pre-season as well.
Despite several desperate attempts late in the match to score, the Dynamo were unable to create any meaningful chances down the stretch. Between the Rapids time wasting and the rushed shots that went into the stands, Houston could only watch as their season, officially, came to an end.
Unfortunately Houston won’t have long to think about it as they have a midweek road match in Seattle before closing out the home portion of the season the following Sunday against Bruce Arena’s LA Galaxy. Their final match of the season is in Denver on October 23, which could very well decide the Supporter’s Shield.
Before the Rapids host Houston again, they return home to host the San Jose Earthquakes before traveling to Portland to square off against the Timbers next Sunday.
With the season now over, fans will put pressure on the team to see bench options and the loan players. Kevin Garcia, Christian Lucatero, Yair Arboleda, Keyner Brown and Escalante should get plenty of minutes in the final few games. With a five point lead over the Chicago Fire, it’s unlikely they’ll fall behind them to win the inglorious Wooden Spoon and knowing what the above can do will give management a head start going into the offseason and whether to bring any of the above back for 2017.