With the recent signing of Jose “Memo” Rodriguez out of the Dynamo Academy, it’s worth taking a look back at one of the most exciting moments to come from an Academy player on the MLS level, so we travel back to August 20, 2011 in a crucial home game against Real Salt Lake. After a horrible 2010 campaign, the Dynamo were looking to rebound and get back into the playoffs after missing out for the first time in franchise history.
The 2011 season was a mixed bag at that point. Better than the previous year but still rough. They were winless on the road up to that point, but had a respectable home record that kept them in contention. Needing a full 3 points to climb the table, the Dynamo welcomed RSL to Robertson Stadium in a very difficult encounter.
The Dynamo came out flying that night, catching the defense sleeping as they pressured goalkeeper Nick Rimando often in the first half hour of the game. RSL countered with their first solid chance of the night in the 29′ when Fabian Espindola slotted a goal into the near post after sneaking behind the defense. Momentum shifted toward RSL as they started putting the Dynamo on the back of their heels. Some stout goalkeeping from Tally Hall and good team defense kept the visitors from doubling their lead for the remainder of the half.
Houston came flying out of the gates as Brad Davis squared a perfectly weighted ball for Ching to slide a shot past a diving Rimando to tie up the game. It was a brilliant footwork from Davis to slip right by three defenders to find himself open to make an easy pass. They nearly took the lead when Davis was behind the defense and sent a point blank shot on goal but Rimando blocked it, somehow, to preserve the tie. Then 17 year old Luis Gil struck back just a hair before the clock struck 60′ when he was unmarked in front of the net and headed home a cross from Espindola.
The Dynamo struck back just 9 minutes later when Davis took a corner kick from the near side. He sent in a shallow corner and found defender Bobby Boswell who headed it home in spectacular fashion to tie the game back up. Ching and company continued to put pressure on RSL but their defense never broke. Rimando was called upon to make some great saves, including a fantastic save on a Ching header in the 86′. Knowing a tie wouldn’t be the end of the season, but really needing those three points at home, they kept on trying to find the winner.Alex Dixon of the Houston Dynamo
Alex Dixon, from Humble just up the road, was subbed into the game in the 81′ to replace Colin Clark in midfield. The Homegrown player had gotten a few minutes prior to this but not much was probably expected of him in this game. Against a stout RSL defense that looked determined to get a result in Houston, the task was difficult. Still, Dixon found himself in a position to make a difference and he took it.
With less than a minute left, Rimando put the ball back into play after a failed attempt by the Dynamo to push forward. Hall blasted a kick forward that found Calen Carr, which got the offense moving. He found Davis on the left flank who whipped in his trademark cross into the box. The defense headed the ball away but not far enough. It bounced towards Dixon, who collected the ball cleanly. He dribbled past two defenders, just outside the 18 yard box and sent a hard, low shot with his left foot towards goal. It caught Rimando completely off guard and zoomed past him and hit the side netting for the winning goal with just 5 seconds left on the clock.
To quote Sean, “BOOM!”
The stadium erupted into a loud roar, not only for the win but for the local kid who scored the goal. Dixon ran towards the bench where he jumped into the awaiting arms of coach Dominic Kinnear, both of whom were promptly swarmed by their teammates from the field and the bench. Academy coach James Clarkson basked in the glory before joining the mob in celebration. As soon as the teams reset on the field, the ref blew the whistle for full time. With the goal, and win, Houston catapulted into 2nd place in the Eastern Conference.
The goal is best summed up by then Dynamo announcer Jonathan Yardley. Covering the game on SportsTalk 790 AM, this was his reaction to the winner:
That kind of raw excitement made Dixon and Yardley fan favorites. And it’s moments like this (and Tyler’s “Saint Deric” performance in Toronto) that we hope to see from Memo Rodriguez. Do we expect to see this starting with First Kick 2015? Of course not. But we hope that he is able to bring such excitement to the team eventually.