WASHINGTON, April 18, 2015 – Chris Rolfe’s perfectly taken free kick was cancelled by Ricardo Clark’s goal as D.C. United was held to a 1-1 tie against the Houston Dynamo on a warm night at RFK Stadium before a 13,000-plus crowd.
With the draw, United remained tied for the lead of the Eastern Conference with the New York Red Bulls. The D.C. outfit is undefeated at home and unbeaten in four games. It was the second game in a row that United (3-1-2, 11 points) blew a lead and points and was held to a tie at RFK.
United was missing its starting goalie Bill Hamid, who is nursing a thigh injury. Hamid has played a key role for the team this season pulling off numerous big saves to keep United in games. Backup goalie Andrew Dykstra stepped in for Hamid and was called on early to stop shots from Houston’s English striker Giles Barnes and midfielder Ricardo Clark. The Dynamo (2-2-3, 9 pts.) could have easily been two goals up in the first 12 minutes if it had taken its chances better. United’s first decent effort came on the half-hour mark when a deflection off United’s Michael Farfan sailed over the Dynamo’s goal.
The home-team took the lead in the 37th minute from a super goal from Rolfe. The feisty Jairo Arrieta, who kept the visitors’ defence busy all night until he was replaced by Nick DeLeon in the 58th minute, won a free-kick at the top of the Dynamo box, about 23 yards from the goal. Rolfe converted the kick with a excellent shot, aiming his rocket high into the top corner of the net and leaving Houston goalie Tyler Deric no chance as he dramatically dived in vain to keep the ball out of his net. It was United’s first shot on goal in the game.
After the interval, former Premier League (Burnley, Bolton, Wigan) coach Owen Coyle sent on Houston substitute Will Bruin, known as a “United-killer” for his nine career goals against the D.C. team. But it was Barnes who almost tied the game, hitting the United post with a low shot on the hour-mark. Then Bruin caused his usual damage.
The striker converted a cross with a powerful header, forcing Dykstra to make a huge save, but the United goalie could only get a hand on the ball, allowing Clark to blast home the rebound from close range to tie the game 1-1 in the 65th minute.
Dykstra preserved the tie when he opened his body and saved a shot with his face to stop Kofi Sarkodie’s close-range effort.
United coach Ben Olsen sent late substitutes Luis Silva and Miguel Aguilar in search of a winning goal.
United next travel to play the Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday, a game which hopefully heralds the return of the club’s key striker Fabian Espindola from his six-match ban.
John Haydon covered soccer for two decades for the Washington Times.