You couldn't really argue that it was an unfair result in the end. Houston were the aggressors for the most part, even if D.C. gave them plenty of pause for thought on the counter at moments.
Clark's late runs into the box were the source of some of D.C.'s problems in the first half, and in the second half a perfectly timed run on a corner forced the first goal off riley, and then he popped up in an advanced position to hammer home an emphatic second.
D.C. will be glad to see Pontius go a full competitive 90 on the ground where he picked up the injury that ended his season last year and hampered this year's pre-season. And when DeRo comes back those sudden moves forward should be more potent. For tonight though, it was Houston's Barnes who was the player on the field popping up more in floating positions, and of course Clark had the decisive impact. In the end a forgettable night for D.C.
Not for us though. MLS is back! Day one continues with a couple more games on the West coast and there are three more games tomorrow. We'll be back on Monday to review the action. For now, thanks for all your tweets and emails and goodnight.
Final Score Houston 2 D.C. 0
Peep! PEEP! PEEEEEEEEEEP!
Houston's unbeaten home run extends to 26.
90 mins +3
D.C. have one last free kick wide right, which Pontius lofts over the heads of everyone in the box. Last little exchange of views between jostling players and that will be that.
90 mins +2
Seamus mails in:
"The difference between Houston and many others is that they are VERY capable of scoring from open play. Nice goal well taken."
At times tonight they kept that particular skill rather well hidden Seamus, but a fair point.
Pontius sprints to the byline but can't control his cut back to find a team mate. A disappointing return to the BBVA for him and D.C. is nearly over.
90 mins +1
First of two added on minutes. Clark, by the way, was the player who forced Riley into the own goal. A good start for him.
GOAL! HOUSTON 2 D.C. 0 (CLARK!)
And that's that...
Ching pings the ball neatly to Creavalle by the byline, but he still has plenty to do as he forces his way into the box. He cuts back to Clark who appears to be at far too narrow an angle to shoot. He does though...and arrows a fierce drive into the far top corner. Great finish.
Now he comes out to a big cheer. Camargo in.
That's not what D.C. need - Hamid makes a hash of a clearance to give Houston a throw. Now the new player-coach Ching comes on to replace Barnes, and he instantly wins a free kick wide left in an inviting position. Hamid punches it clear, but Houston retain possession to thwart the trailing visitors.
Now Davis comes off for Creavalle as the Dynamo try to shut up shop.
Yes, but how does their hair look?
Porter on for Saragosa for D.C., with the instruction from Olsen to "be a handful".
Instantly he's involved in a D.C. attack as he curls a cross in from the corner of the box. It's cleared but for a moment D.C. have some momentum building as HOuston sit off them. Kitchen steps forward but his ambitious shot from distance goes harmlessly over.
Well that at least should open up the last ten minutes as D.C. chase the game.
It's Houston who come closest next though as Barnes meets a good ball from Davis with a delicious flick for Ashe, overlapping in the left. He beats the last man but rather panics and sends his shot flying over from a narrow angle.
GOAL! HOUSTON 1 D.C. 0 (RILEY OG)
The run continues by the look of it...
Davis drives the corner deep to the far post, where Riley, charging back with his man under pressure, can only head the ball past his own keeper. Houston have the breakthrough.
Barnes and Sarkodie tiptoe around the right of the D.C. box and eventually pick up another corner as the former's cross is blocked. Davis will take it...
Sanchez came on as a sub for D.C. by the way. He's on for Thorington. D.C. are pressing a little themselves now, with some good interplay between Sanchez, DeLeon and Riley out right. Maybe they believe now's the time they could steal this and lay the ghost of previous Dynamo games.
Riley comes forward on the overlap, but can't get his shot on target. He'll be useful doing that for D.C. this season - the getting forward that is. Not sure how useful "not getting your shot on target" is.
Garcia earns a corner after chasing a lost cause and playing the ball off a furious Korb, who feels it was a goal kick. he may have forfeited his right to self-righteous anger for the night though.
The corner comes to nothing though.
Davis curls the free kick into the box but straight to Hamid. D.C. might be happy enough to take a 0-0 here, given their horrible record here.
Just as I type that Barnes races clear and looks set to stroke the ball past Hamid from the edge of the box, only to get some contact from James Riley in the box, that does enough to put him off and send the shot wide. I've seen those given as penalties - soft as it might have been.
Definite Houston pressure now, but as has been the pattern so far, it serves as an intro for a D.C. break, as Pontius forges forward with the ball at his feet, only to not quite manage the final touch to a team mate. Every time Houston look like committing forward, they get sent a little reminder...
Still Houston 0 D.C. 0 - but now Houston have a free kick 30 yards out as Kitchen and Clark collide.
Houston attacking again and after some persistence in the box they pick up another corner. Driven by Davis and Bruin storms to the near post to meet it, but can't quite turn his body enough to get a fierce header to go on target. It flashes past the post. Houston picking up a little though.
Perhaps this will stir the Houston faithful. They earn a corner on the left. Outswinger by Davis almost sees Boswell hammer one from the edge of the box, but D.C. force it out to the edge of the box. Only as far as Boniek Garcia though, who DOES hammer one, but into the gods. It is now the hammer of the gods.
Mike is back, freestyling about other sports...
Maybe wait for the next lull in the game, Mike. Houston doing their best to introduce one as they let another attack break down for a throw. Their crowd sounding a little subdued right now.
...which is cleared.
D.C. enjoying a little spell now and Pontius earns a free kick near the byline as Sarkodie pushes him over. Dangerous position.
Pontius curls an inswinger that Houston fail to clear cleanly - their defense is slightly relieved when Toledo spots an infringement in the box and awards them the foul.
An hour comes up - and D.C. almost catch Houston napping after some excellent retrieval work from DeLeon keeps the ball in play to give Pontius a header from the edge of the six yard box, but he can only send it over. It cam from a deep floated cross by Kitchen.
Still 0-0 but D.C. have a corner...
A minute later Clark tries to go for a spectacular connection in the box, but can't evade his defender. Everything getting a little more direct now, you'll be happy to hear.
...and on that note, DeLeon pops up on the right, but fails to clear the first man with his cross, possibly misjudging the distance through the glare of his own dyed blonde tresses.
At the other end Giles Barnes, almost connects with a shot from the edge of the box, but a last ditch tackle by Jakovic charges it down.
While these two teams go through a lull, here's a link to Dom Kinnear's hair - in case anyone thought we were picking on bad D.C. hair days earlier...
Both sides still chasing fairly hard to close each other down. None of the languid play you sometimes see on hotter days on this field. Neither side truly threatening just at the moment though.
Still 0-0 after a quiet start to the second half.
Thorington intercepts a rather too cute Houston approach pass and tries to send Pajoy clear, but he's way offside as he gallops clear on the low through ball.
Still a lot of talk about that penalty incident - Toledo consulted with his assistant Ian Anderson as the decision was given - two retreating D.C. defenders were obstructing his own view.
D.C launch a free kick forward, but Thorington is bundled off the ball on the edge of the box.
D.C. get us underway for the second half, just after we saw a replay showing that ref Toledo was completely unsighted on that penalty decision.
Korb moves over to left back for second half. James Riley on for his debut, replacing Woolard.
Guardian multimedia extravaganza
He emails (24 mins)! He tweets! He's...a little harsh.
Don't think the Dynamo have been exactly wasteful (if we forget the way Brad Davis took that penalty - and in fairness it was pretty forgettable). They're doing some decent work finding space to get round the D.C. defense, but have not had much luck with final touches.
Half time thoughts
As the teams come off Ben Olsen is claiming that the game is "there" despite a "physical" Houston side, and that they can "nick a goal". On the first half evidence he's right - Houston are pressing and had two great chances (including the penalty) in the last five minutes of the half, but D.C. had chances themselves, and could have scored immediately after that saved penalty.
Definite echoes of that first leg of the Eastern Conference final in Korb's contribution, as he prevented a certain goal with his clearance, minutes after giving up a penalty with what looked like a clear denial of a goalscoring opportunity. He should probably have been off the field at the time.
Barnes popping up well in the final third, in line with his floating role, and Clark's late arriving runs into the box are occasionally threatening, but while Houston continue to press with no particular urgency, they'll be vulnerable on the counter.
HALF TIME: Houston 0 D.C. 0
Half time thoughts in a minute...
45 mins +2
Only a minute added on to a first hand that ends somewhat frantically. Last significant action sees Pontius force his way clear at the byline, but his drive back across goal sees nobody following in.
45 mins KORB CLEARs OFF THE LINE!
How did that not go in? Bruin catches the corner with a hard header down that Korb, who maybe shouldn't be on the field (shades of Ross County's finest) knocks it off the line, before Hamid makes a great point blank save to keep his side level. It's still Houston 0 D.C. 0
Looking back at that penalty that shouldn't have been a penalty, it was still a foul and you'd have a good case for arguing Korb should have sen red. Now Houston have a corner...
41 mins PONTIUS HITS THE BAR!
D.C. get a free kick at the other end. It's quite a way out but Pontius is able to get a shot up and down an off the top of the Houston bar. Game's warmed up nicely these last couple of minutes.
PENALTY SAVED (HAMID)
Brad Davis steps up with a short run up and hits it straight at Hamid, as he dives to his right. Nice height for the keeper. Poor penalty, though it was a controversial penalty (not for the foul but the location).
McDonald loses his footing and Clark races clear into the box where he is fouled (actually probably outside the box) by Korb, who gets a yellow.
All gone a little "early season" in these last couple of minutes - moving parts not quite joining up. Hang on...
Terrible D.C. clearance from a Davis free kick almost gives Barnes a chance central on the edge of the box, but the massed defenders force it clear.
Davis intercepts a ball at the halfway line and drives forward, but checks his run as D.C. defenders swarm back. But now D.C. break and for a moment it's 3 on 2 at the back before Pontius tries to slip the ball to Pajoy to his left and only succeeds in losing it.
Mike (24 mins) might be right...
Garcia finds a little bit of space on the right but his cross is disappointing. it leads to a period of Houston pressure round the edge of the box though, but D.C. are defending solidly enough (cue two minute hat trick of goals from Tally Hall goal kicks...)
Half an hour gone. Arlo White and Kyle Martino on NBC talking about the effect of D.C. playing Houston before the hottest time of the year. By all accounts this is a blisteringly hot stadium later in the season, and D.C. looking livelier than they did in that conference final, so far. Houston 0 D.C. 0
While we were talking hair, D.C. had a decent little spell of play and a couple of free kicks from distance that were sent in by Pontius (who still doesn't look 100% by the way). They caused a little panic in the Houston box, but no D.C. shirt could get a decisive touch.
Now we're talking. Twitter analysts getting to the heart of the matter:
DeLeon is definitely playing fast and loose with his dignity with that blonde mop...
Chance for Pontius as he gets turned on the edge of the box and sends a shot beyond Hall but beyond his right post as well. Just a little warning for Houston.
"Do you smell a 1-0 dc win on one of these counters?"
Houston need to concentrate if they're going to keep up this pattern, certainly.
Davis wraps his foot round the ball near the corner flag to fashion a cross from an awkward position. D.C. clear but the ball is coming straight back at them a little more often in recent minutes, as the home side begin to exert some pressure.
Houston have definitely had the best chances so far, but other than that weak Davis free kick, yet to get a shot on target. D.C. trying to spring forward in numbers on occasion though, and Pontius was a better pass from being free on goal just now.
...Davis curls it (the corner) to the near post but a black shirt heads it (the ball) clear. It (the game) is still 0-0.
Barnes picks up the ball wide left and forges forward with it to earna throw deep in D.C. territory, but it's wasted. Barnes in something of a free role tonight as it turns out.
Woolard gets a yellow in an incident that is faintly reminiscent of the "foul that wasn't" by Andre Hainault, that arguably changed the direction of the conference final fist leg here in November. It was a fair bit out though and a yellow was about right.
Now Sarkodie makes a surging run down the right and cuts back to where Clark should do better first time - instead his weak looping attempt is fortuitously deflected for a corner...
D.C.'s Kitchen having to jog off with a cut lip, after clashing with Ricardo Clark a minute or two ago. He gets pitched up and Ben Olsen helpfully screams "LET HIM ON!" at the fourth official, who will doubtless have a much more fun time in his interactions with Dom Kinnear tonight.
Still Houston 0 D.C. 0 after the first ten minutes. It's been lively enough. D.C. playing a fairly aggressive formation with their wing backs pushed up, Houston having the balance of the play though.
D.C. pick up the first corner and Pontius almost picks out McDonald in the box, but he can't get a clean header on it and Houston just about get it clear. Bruin tries to break forward but McDonald, who's been busy, checks his run and Houston have a free kick around the halfway line.
Houston try to get going down the right with Boniek Garcia but he runs into traffic. But from the throw the ball drops perfectly for Adam Moffat who sets up for a MOFFAT ROCKET™. He hits it cleanly enough but the ball flashes just beyond the far post.
Houston shading opening exchanges and now Bruin forces his way into the box and gets to the byline, but his inviting cutback is muddled clear by two D.C. defenders and their team try to break via Pajoy. He's dispossessed before reinforcements can arrive though.
Another D.C. attack follows with DeLeon just failing to pick out Pajoy cleanly with a crisp flick outside the box.
...Davis has the ball touched to him from the kick and hits a low drive, but it's straight at Hamid and not that powerful.
Game still taking shape in early exchanges in midfield. Finally a little space opens up down the right for Houston, but a looping cross is cleared easily enough by McDonald in the D.C. box. A minute later he's in trouble though as he gives up a free kick some 30 yards out by upending Barnes...
Last minute huddles to swap gossip and crowdsource info on where the opposing goalie got his boots and we're under way! Houston kick off. Early turnover forced by D.C. but Houston get it clear on the edge of their own box.
First game of our Guardian MLS season will be starting shortly...
Kyle Martino reminding us that the Houston side, other than the injured Calen Carr, is the same one that started the MLS Cup final.
Meanwhile the redoubtable Arlo White is on hand to warn D.C. United that they are 0-7-1 in Houston
About to kick off...
The basketball has finished
I'm going to kind of miss those guys...
OK, soccer coming up.
In case you were wondering...
...based on that last ramble — the basketball is still on.
A call is being reviewed.
How to interview...
A couple of weeks ago I sat in a room with Brad Davis and thinking (I say, “thinking”...) that what could be nicer than being reminded of a low point in your life, I brightly mentioned that the last time I’d seen him had been in the TV studio of the Home Depot Center after Houston lost the MLS Cup. He glumly noted that if he “had a dime for every time” he’d had that mentioned that day...
Anyway, it immediately got me to thinking that even at its most packed that that TV studio could not have had more than about 80 people in it, meaning that Davis probably stood to clear 4 dollars if they’d all caught up with him the same day as I had, and had all asked him about it. Then I thought that some of those people were probably based in LA, or abroad (given it was the final and Beckham was saying farewell) and might have had to text him the mention of that day, or perhaps send some sort of group email, just before I'd mentioned it to him, for him to really max out his dime-collecting potential. Then I wondered if the 4 dollars would somehow count against the salary cap. By the time I came round from the ensuing reverie, Davis was talking about Houston’s switch from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 last season:
"If anybody knows Dominic Kinnear, he's a 4-4-2 guy and cannot stand to stray away from it. He came up to me and said (mutters) 'I can't believe I'm doing this'...he was genuinely upset that we had to change from a 4-4-2! But to be totally honest you have to give credit to him because we had the personnel to play in a 4-3-3, and we had guys in that position that were very dangerous and for him to see what he had as a group and stray away (from 4-4-2) is part of being a great coach."
Other sports are available
NBCSN are showing this game, so we'll not be kicking off just yet as they need to show the dying seconds of the Harvard/Penn college basketball game.
Houston Dynamo: Hall; Sarkodie, Taylor, Boswell, Ashe; Garcia, Moffat, Clark, Davis (C), Barnes; Bruin
D.C. United: Hamid; Woolard, Jakovic, McDonald, Korb; Pontius, Kitchen, Saragosa, DeLeon, Thorrington; Pajoy
Nice to see Giles Barnes sticking with the Dynamo - he'll probably be playing just beneath Bruin in a 4-2-3-1 this evening. Bruin will be looking to pick up where he left off after an excellent sophomore season. No Hainault to torment D.C. this year of course — he was last seen wandering around the confines of Ross County.
And D.C. will likely be lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation too, with new-ish man John Thorington helping anchor the midfield. The enforced DeRo reshuffle puts Saragosa in beneath Pajoy. It'll be interesting to see if the latter convinces this year, but with the drive and movement of Pontius and DeLeon behind him, he shouldn't be short of chances.
Submit your gratuitous Pinocchio/Mickey Mouse jokes now
The game DeRo was banned in was part of the Disney ProSoccer Classic pre-season tournament, and apparently the corroborating evidence for making the charge stick, in the absence of video from the game, was “the testimony of two independent observers associated with Walt Disney World”.
What our fan reps say
Regular readers of our MLS coverage will know that each Friday we preview the weekend's action with the help of a selection of fan reps, bloggers, podcasters, beat writers, and, in at least one case, one of the shouty people who stands on a ladder.
Here for example, is one we made earlier.
Here’s what Stephen Eastepp from the Dynamo Theory blog, had to say on Houston's goings on this week, in the lead up to the game:
“Brian Ching's contract negotiations went into the final hour, with an agreement coming on Thursday. His contract would have expired at the end of the day, but the player and club were able to come to terms and the Houston legend will spend his final year as a player/coach. While everyone knew this would get done, it let Dynamo fans and Ching breathe a sigh of relief.
Ultimately, the Dynamo are focusing on DC United and their opening match. It's going to be a tough game and both clubs have made improvements over last year's roster. Fans are looking forward to welcoming back Carlos Ruiz to Houston and to knowing whether Dwayne De Rosario will be able to suit up for DC. Three days after the DCU game, Houston will take on Santos Laguna from the Mexican league in their next CONCACAF Champions League match. With a short turnaround from First Kick, the question about whether Dominic Kinnear will field starters or reserves is a hot topic. It's a big home match with Houston knowing how difficult it is to win in Mexico in the return leg.”
And here's Kim Kolb of D.C. United’s Screaming Eagles supporters group picked as the key events for his team this week:
“This first week of the season, there are two stories. First, the status of Dwayne DeRosario. In the final game of the preseason against Philadelphia, DeRo found himself in a dustup with former teammate Danny Cruz. DeRo was sent off during the altercation and there are reports that he may have headbutted Cruz. Though there is no video of the game, MLS is investigating and may take action against DeRo. If so, that'll obviously upset Ben Olsen's roster. Which leads to the second story (which would really be the only story if the DeRo stuff hadn't come up) is how the team actually comes together, as the final roster spots have been filled. A lot of roles will carry over from last season, so it's up to the players to execute and for the coaching staff to pull the right strings.”
Since those previews were written, DeRo has been banned for two games by the way, based on what the head of MLS Competition Nelson Rodriguez called, “conclusive eyewitness testimony”.
Good evening/afternoon, and welcome to the first MLS live game of the season and an intriguing little starter it is too.
A repeat of the first leg of last season’s Eastern Conference Final between Houston Dynamo and D.C. United — a game where just like Sporting KC before them, the higher seeded D.C. side found themselves giving up what turned out to be an unassailable lead at the BBVA Compass stadium. The game was also chiefly remarkable for an injury-hit D.C. United becoming an injury-ravaged one, before our very eyes, as Pontius, Saragosa and McDonald limped out of the game. To add to the misfortune, assistant coach Pat Onstad was red-carded, and D.C., having scored first, went down to a 3-1 defeat. And of course there was Andre Hainault...
You can read all about that game here or just watch the highlights below. Or do both for the full multimedia experience. Perhaps while wearing a scarf.
Still want more? OK, try our season previews for the Eastern and Western Conferences. And if you’re finished early you can tweet your thoughts and predictions for this game, and indeed this season, to @KidWeil or email firstname.lastname@example.org - after that put your devices down and face the front of the room, and I'll be back with you shortly.