In 2006 and 2007, the Houston Dynamo swept through the competition at the Carolina Challenge Cup, posting an undefeated 4-0-2 record in taking back-to-back preseason titles in Charleston. On Saturday evening, the Dynamo were finally vanquished for the first time in their history at the tournament, dropping a 3-2 decision to the Chicago Fire.
Houston struck first blood a quarter-hour into the match, earning a free kick about 25 yards from goal. Veteran winger Brad Davis stepped up to the ball, tapping a soft pass on to Adam Moffat. The Scottish midfielder ripped a low shot through the Chicago wall, Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson glancing the ball with his outstretched fingertips but unable to prevent the goal.
Eight minutes later Chicago leveled the match at 1-1. Dilly Duka, finding Dutch designated player Sherjill MacDonald in space, slotted the ball through. The striker fended off several Dynamo defenders, working his way into the box for an opportunity. Tucking the ball under Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall, the Dutchman had grabbed a quick equalizer for the Fire.
A Houston blunder would lead to an own goal a few minutes later, sapping the Dynamo’s early momentum and handing a 2-1 lead over to the opposition. Patrick Nyarko broke free for Chicago along the right flank, bending a cross into the box. Duka was awaiting the ball, and his play caromed off several Houston defenders before bouncing past Hall for the go-ahead gift. Hall would have to make several big stops to keep the lead from growing bigger before the intermission.
Three minutes into the second half, even Hall’s heroics couldn’t keep Chicago from making it 3-1. Hall made the initial save on a Chris Rolfe header, tipping the shot over the bar for a corner kick. Joel Lindpere sent the ball into the area, where teammate Jeff Larentowicz was in position to snap a header past Hall for the Fire’s third.
The Dynamo would pull one back in the 64th minute, capitalizing on their own corner opportunity to pull the deficit within one. Johnson managed to save a 30-yard blast from Giles Barnes, but the corner kick from Davis found Cam Weaver in the air; all the striker had to do was nod the ball into the net past the helpless keeper.
But that would be as close as Houston would come to victory on the day. Chicago had a penalty kick in the 84th minute, but Hall managed to tip Maicon Santos’ attempt clear for a corner. With the final whistle, the Dynamo were perfect no longer in Carolina and already in a deficit after the opening match. Both teams play again on Wednesday, with Houston facing the Vancouver Whitecaps and Chicago taking on USL Pro hosts Charleston Battery in the following match.