Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Dynamo Down in Defeat -- As the clock wound to 90:00, in a lackluster contest, it seemed as if the Houston Dynamo had emerged with a crucial and surprising scoreless draw. Surprising, because the MLS teams have lost 23 of 28 prior Champions Cup games played in Latin America. Surprising, because the Dynamo lost their starting goalie to injury early in the first half. Surprising, because most of the game was played in the Dynamo end. Surprising, because the Dynamo played much of the second half down a man, after Eddie Robinson was ejected. The Dynamo even survived a penalty shot, only a few minutes after backup goalie Zach Wells replaced the injured Pat Onstad. In injury time, however, a shot by Puntarenas' best player Kurt Bertrand was deflected by the Dynamo defense and redirected into the far corner of the Dynamo goal, giving the Costa Rican side the win, in the first game of the home and home series.

For most of the game, it appeared that the biggest moment was the test faced by backup goalie Zach Wells, just a few minutes after entering the contest. A penalty had been called for contact by Dynamo's Craig Waibel, though the Puntarenas player had no chance of flagging down an errant pass in the box. Yet, Wells proved up to the test, and parried Bertrand's weak, uncertain shot away from its intended destination in the corner of the net. Despite controlling the game, and having the man advantage following Robinson's ejection in the 72nd minute for his second yellow card, Puntarenas appeared destined for a disappointing draw. Though Puntarenas continued to pressure the Dynamo goal throughout the game, the home team could not connect until Bertrand's fortunate effort in stoppage time, in the 92nd minute, a shot that Wells appeared to have covered, but for the deflection.

At least for the first half, the more interesting game was the Chelsea-Porto affair over on ESPN2, starting a few minutes after the Dynamo-Puntarenas contest had begun. In that game, Porto got a fortunate deflection as well, to take an early first-half lead. Chelsea rebounded a couple of minutes later, as Andriy Shevchenko started paying dividends on Roman Abramovich's huge investment in the Ukranian striker. Sheva took a pass on the right wing, pushed the ball forward, and drilled a grass-cutter that beat the Porto keeper and found the far side of the goal. The best play of the game might have been the nifty, running, long-range, first-time strike that curled off the outside part of Ricardo Quaresma's foot. Though Chelsea's Petr Cech was badly beaten, Chelsea were saved when Quaresma's shot hit the far post and caromed into play.

The second half of this European Champions League match was not nearly so interesting, as the teams seemed willing to accept the 1-1 result. The one bit of bad news for Chelsea was another injury to team captain John Terry, who had just returned after a long absence. No word yet on how severe his ankle injury will prove to be.

Tonight, D.C. United takes on the Honduran champs, CD Olimpia. The FischFry will be back with a report after the game.

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