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(Rebecca Blackwell/AP)
(Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

Dynamo Lift 2023 U.S. Open Cup With Two 1st Half Goals Against Messi-less Miami

Heading into Wednesday night’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final, all the headlines were around the health of Inter Miami’s blockbuster summer signing, Lionel Messi.  The Argentine attacker had missed a string of games recently, and just hours before kickoff, Miami’s lineup was released with no sign of him on the team sheet.  This was a huge sigh of relief for the Houston Dynamo, and paired with the absence of key defender Jordi Alba, gave the visiting side the final jolt in its 2-1 victory.  

With a humid night expected at the DRV PNK Stadium in south Florida, fitness levels needed to be 100% for both players and Miami head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino felt that it was not worth the risk to play Messi nor Alba, even in a cup final.  Especially after a stretch of two months in which Miami has played a very congested schedule, letting Messi rest will hopefully lead to a quick recovery as Miami hopes to mount a furious charge toward a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Once the game got underway, it was complete dominance from head coach Ben Olsen’s Houston side, who had control of the first half from the initial whistle.  While the Dynamo maintained possession early on, Miami was satisfied with dropping back on defense and taking their chances on quick counter-attacks. Not many big opportunities materialized for either side early on, but the Dynamo were the first to have a chance on net in the 10th minute, with Nelson Quiñónes having his shot on goal blocked by a sliding DeAndre Yedlin just inside the box. Minutes later, it was Quiñónes again with another chance in close, this time being denied by Miami goalkeeper Drake Callendar, who had no trouble with the shot.  In the 16th minute, a crunching tackle from center back Serhiy Kryvtsov led to the first of three yellow cards incurred by the Miami back-line in the first half.  Soon after, the Dynamo had their biggest chance yet, with midfielder Adalberto “Coco” Carrasquilla playing a through ball into the path of Quiñónes, whose curling effort forced another save from Callendar.  Although the ball was immediately spilled and fell to the feet of forward Corey Baird, Callendar was up to the task again, denying the opening goal with a kick save at point-blank range.  

Callendar’s early heroics would all be for naught in the end. As Baird, along with midfielder Artur and right-back Griffin Dorsey, linked up in a fluid and swift attack for Houston’s first goal in the 24th minute.  Baird was played a through ball along the right side of Miami’s defense, quickly cutting it back toward the middle of the pitch. He then passed to Artur at the top of the box before leading the sprinting Dorsey to smash it past Callendar for the opening strike.  The Dynamo were not done, though, and less than 10 minutes later, Houston was able to double their advantage after Miami conceded a penalty.  Following a perfectly placed through ball in towards Nelson Quiñónes, DeAndre Yedlin put in a last-ditch challenge, completely missing the ball and kicking Quiñónes straight in the shins.  The contact was enough to take the Dynamo forward to the ground, and referee Jon Freemon had no choice but to point to the spot and give Houston the penalty.  It was Morrocan international Amine Bassi who stepped up to take the kick and slotted it home past Drake Callendar, placing it straight down the middle as Callendar dove to his right.  Even with a two-goal lead, Houston had most of the chances to end the half, with Miami not even having a shot on goal until an attempt from Benjamin Cremaschi sailed comfortably over the crossbar in the 42nd minute.

Following the half-time break, it was almost a complete 180-degree turn in terms of chances created.  The Dynamo were on the defensive side of the ball for almost the entire final 45 minutes, and Miami had attack after attack during some stretches.  Half-time substitute Josef Martínez played a big role in the reinvigorated Miami attack, although a lack of quality touches in the penalty area hurt him as he wasted three big chances within the first 15 minutes of the half.  The Miami offense continued on, however, and in the 60th minute, Cremaschi had his first look of the half, this time forcing Dynamo goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell to make a save on a curling effort going towards goal.  The next 10 minutes saw a lack of big chances from either side, but the Dynamo came within inches of slamming the door shut in the 73rd minute.  After a leading ball in from Amine Bassi, Nelson Quiñónes slotted home what appeared to be his second goal of the match.  As Houston celebrated what seemed to be a dagger in Miami’s hopes, the Video Assistant Referee recommended that the goal be reviewed.  After looking at the replay, it was found that Quiñónes leg was just beyond the knee of defender Kamal Miller when the ball was played through, making Quiñónes offside and ruling out the goal.  This call did not immediately inject new life into Miami’s offensive attack, but after a quiet run of play, Josef Martínez finally capitalized on a chance, scoring in the 91st minute (stoppage time) on a first-time shot that he put through the legs of Houston’s goalkeeper and getting Miami back to within a goal.  

Miami finally had a sign of life, but it all proved to be too little too late.  Chances came in both the 94th and 97th minutes for Miami, but the home side could not find a late equalizer and suffered only their second loss in 15 matches since Lionel Messi’s arrival to the squad. 

 As for Houston, this victory secured the club’s second U.S. Open Cup title, with the prior win coming in the 2018 edition.  As they celebrate this exciting trophy and Miami scrambles to regain their composure, it will be back to business as usual this weekend for both sides.  With just a handful of games remaining in the MLS regular season, Miami sit five points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, while the Dynamo sit comfortably in fourth place, a qualifying spot, in the West.  Every game matters more down the stretch, so Miami will look to turn things around quickly against NYCFC if they want to have any hopes of getting Messi an MLS Cup in his first season with the team.

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