Three thoughts on the Houston Dynamo's 2-2 tie with the New York Red Bulls in the first leg of their Eastern Conference semifinal matchup at BBVA Compass Stadium.
1) New York's defense has to be better. The Red Bulls started off the match playing as well as they have all season, stringing together passes and finding gaps in the Houston back line that they were able to turn into two goals -- one from a Tim Cahill header off a Thierry Henry cross, and the second ten minutes later as Eric Alexander turned Dynamo defender Eric Brunner into a pretzel before finishing well with his left foot.
The second half , on the other hand, was a total collapse. Ricardo Clark got the Dynamo on the board with a nice finish from the outside of the box, but the service for that finish came from a botched clearance by Red Bulls defender David Carney. Then the Red Bulls had to deal with a red card to defender Jamison Olave, whose needless and reckless tackle in a benign area of midfield earned him a straight ejection and put his team under pressure for the rest of the match.
2) Omar Cummings changed the game. In his time with the Colorado Rapids, Omar Cummings was renowned throughout the league for his pace and finishing ability. He hasn't been able to recreate that magic for much of his first season in Houston (mostly due to injuries), but he gave Dynamo fans a glimpse of why he was acquired at the most opportunte time on Sunday. After coming on as a 51st-minute substitute for Giles Barnes, Cummings played a critical role in the two most important events of the second half: Not only did he draw the red card on Olave, he also bundled home the tying goal in stoppage time. In between those two events, his pace and ability to exploit the holes in a now-shorthanded Red Bulls side gave Houston all of the momentum in the second stanza. So much so that the men in orange might be disappointed to have not grabbed a winner. 3) Never count out the Dynamo. It seems like we've been saying this a lot lately. But how can you not? Houston looked to be all but done at halftime, especially with memories still floating around of New York's 3-0 and 4-1 victories at their home stadium earlier in the regular season. But even with their talismanic coach Dominic Kinnear nowhere near the team (he was suspended and watched the game from a luxury box), Houston found a way to get something out of a game that appeared to be lost. You have to think that mentality will aid them in the second leg, especially since Olave, the Red Bulls' best defender, will be suspended.