HOUSTON — It took Austin Bold FC until halftime to realize exactly where they were.
Midfielder Xavi Baez launched a rocket free kick early in the second half and substitute Promise Isaac scored on a rebound to pull the Bold within one goal with about a half an hour left in the game.
But it was too little, too late for the Bold, who fell 3-2 to defending U.S. Open Cup champion Houston Dynamo Tuesday night at BBVA Stadium in the fourth round of the continental knock-out competition.
“We changed tactics and high pressed a little bit better (in the second half),” Bold FC head coach Marcelo Serrano said. “We put the team more forward and started creating the chances. My team had a very bad first half and we just came strong in the second.”
Austin out-shot Houston 17-9 in the game and held a 10-5 advantage in shots in the second half. The Dynamo had more than 60 percent of the first-half possession, but the Bold had the majority of the ball in the second half.
Isaac, who came on for winger Kris Tyrpak at halftime, was the spark the Austin offense needed up the left wing.
“We kept pushing and didn’t let them play,” Isaac said. “That was the secret. We’re learning from our mistakes and the guys will know what we need to do next.”
The first half was all Houston. Tomas Martinez scored 14 minutes into the game with a low shot from the top of the box and followed that up with an assist on a goal by Ronaldo Peña about 15 minutes later.
Dynamo midfielder Matias Vera scored with about 10 minutes left in the half with a close-range shot that crept past Diego Restrepo’s near post.
In their first foray into the Open Cup, Austin beat the Tulsa Roughnecks 2-0 in the second round and dominated Texas rivals San Antonio FC 4-2 in the third round to advance to the round where MLS teams enter.
MLS veteran Jermain Taylor returned against a Dynamo club he made more than 100 appearances for between 2011 and 2015. But he was still well aware of the veteran teaching role he plays on the current Bold team.
“It’s always good to be here, it’s like a home away from home for me,” Taylor said. “Coach Serrano has put together a good group of guys. For me, personally, I want to share my experience with the younger guys. I want to be a part of building this club and the young players.”
Austin returns to Bold Stadium at Circuit of the Americas this Saturday night to face off against the Tacoma Defiance in the USL Championship and then heads to Edinburg to meet the Dynamo’s USL affiliate Rio Grande Valley FC on June 23.
“I’ve played in the MLS before, and you see the difference in a game like this in the speed of play,” Taylor said. “In the USL, the pace is somewhat slower where MLS is very consistent. It showed here tonight. If you slack off, that’s where you’re going to get screwed. We just have to learn from this and move forward.”