Chivas USA struck early, then faded, and suddenly last week's stride forward seems inconsequential.
The Goats failed to hold onto a lead for the fifth time in four games Saturday, their inability to defend set pieces costing them plenty in a 2-1 defeat at Houston.
Marcos Mondaini's seventh-minute strike -- a gift goal, from Hunter Freeman's severely underplayed pass back for goalkeeper Tally Hall -- wasn't nearly enough against the Dynamo's aerial game, with two crosses from Brad Davis providing goals either side of halftime.
Chivas (4-5-5) struggled to find the requisite energy in the South Texas heat and to create legitimate chances, with only a Paulo Nagamura blast in the 78th minute and another from Simon Elliott in the 87th, both off-target, offering a flicker of hope.
“Unfortunately, we couldn't hold the score, and we leave very sad because we let the game go,” said Mondaini, who rounded Hall and fired into an open net after latching onto Freeman's poor feed just outside the Dynamo box. “Our job is to play football on the field, especially our style of football. Sometimes players just don’t have a good day or the rival is stronger on the field, and they were able to gain the advantage through set pieces.”
Geoff Cameron scored in the 29th for Houston (4-5-6), a fine glancing header from a Davis free kick, and the winner arrived from a Davis corner kick in the 54th that bounced off Michael Lahoud, hit Heath Pearce and ricocheted into the net as an own goal.
A quick look at Chivas' loss:
BEST PLAYER: Davis is an MVP candidate regardless of the Dynamo's record -- without him, where would they be? -- and he sure was too much for Chivas to handle. He picked up his league-best eighth assist on Cameron's goal and also provided the cross, of course, on the own goal. And his corner in the third minute was headed home by Bobby Boswell … a goal promptly waved off because goalkeeper Dan Kennedy was fouled before the shot.
Chivas's best: Kennedy was fine in the nets -- can't blame him for either goal -- and Mondaini provided what little attacking acumen the Goats exhibited.
BEST GOAL: The only one that wasn't solely the product of a miscue, of course. Davis is the premier server of the ball in MLS, and that includes a certain Mr. Beckham with the team around the corner and down the hall from the Goats, and what a serve he put in from a free kick a good 45 yards from the Chivas goal.
Cameron paid no mind to Ben Zemanski on his back, and his glancing header from the top of the box skipped past Kennedy and inside the far post.
BIGGEST STRUGGLE: The Goats were poor at set-piece defending all evening, and that's a massive liability against the Dynamo, who have two superb crossers on their wings (Colin Clark is the other).
Zemanski has to do more to deny Cameron so simple a header on the first goal. Houston's second was just a mess, with iffy positioning throughout the box. Davis' corner kick was low, hard and into the goalmouth, not directed for a teammate to nod home but rather to cause havoc, and that it did. It caromed off the knee of Lahoud, who was stationed on the goal line, hit Pearce and bounced into the net.
WORTH NOTING: Brian Ching, coming off a fasciitis injury, made just his fifth appearance of the season -- and first since May 4 -- for the Dynamo, coming on in the 70th minute. … Head coach Robin Fraser made two changes to his lineup from the win last weekend over Portland, returning Ante Jazic to left back (with rookie Zarek Valentin going to the bench) and pairing returning forward Alejandro Moreno with Mondaini up front.
FINAL JUDGMENT: “There is not a single person who is guilty. We are all responsible for what happened on the field,” Mondaini said. “Unfortunately, they have the virtue of being good at set pieces. Tonight wasn’t the exception.”
NEXT: Saturday, June 18, vs. FC Dallas at Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m. (Prime Ticket and KWHY/Channel 22)
Robertson Stadium (Houston)
Houston Dynamo 2, Chivas USA 1
C -- Marcos Mondaini 7
H -- Geoff Cameron (Brad Davis) 29
H -- own goal Heath Pearce 54
Houston Dynamo: Tally Hall; Hunter Freeman, Eddie Robinson (Danny Cruz, 56), Bobby Boswell, Corey Ashe; Colin Clark (Mike Chabala, 82), Lovel Palmer, Geoff Cameron, Brad Davis; Cam Weaver (Brian Ching, 70), Will Bruin.
Chivas USA: Dan Kennedy; Michael Lahoud, Michael Umaña, Heath Pearce, Ante Jazic; Ben Zemanski (Blair Gavin, 77), Paulo Nagamura, Nick LaBrocca, Jorge Flores (Simon Elliott, 46); Alejandro Moreno, Marcos Mondaini (Justin Braun, 61). Unused subs: Andy Boyens, Chris Cortez, Zach Thornton, Zarek Valentin.
Yellow cards: Umaña 48, Pearce 59.
Referee: Geoff Gamble. Att.: 19,333.