Since opening these playoffs with a one-off win in Chicago, the Houston Dynamo’s unparalleled professionalism has guided it through two of the East’s most powerful beasts.
Just as Sporting Kansas City couldn’t break through Houston’s twin trees — Bobby Boswell and Jermaine Taylor — two weeks ago, DC United could only conjure up a 1-1 draw in the U.S. capital Sunday night, a result that saw Houston progress 4-2 on aggregate to its fourth MLS Cup in seven years.
In basic terms, Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear has the Orange built for a run. In its last two series Houston has conceded just once in the return — defensive performances that underline the collective mentality Kinnear has instilled throughout his roster.
To illustrate, a United side looking to overturn a 3-1 opening-leg loss could only produce one attempt on target through the opening half.
Realizing that one early chance could put the series out of reach, the Dynamo’s patience and poise produced the road goal it needed a half-hour in when out of nothing Oscar Boniek Garcia put home a Brad Davis cross to finish things before the half.
Despite the first-half tally, Kinnear remained stoic heading into the break.
“Don’t know,” Kinnear told NBC’s Kyle Martino, who had asked how he planned to deal with DC throwing everything forward. “I’m not in their locker room. I’ve just got to see what they do and adjust from there.”
It’s an attitude that runs through the veins of every player in orange, a collection of both skilled and blue-collar footballers that simply know how to garner results.
Helped on by the mid-season acquisitions of Garcia and Ricardo Clark, Kinnear has every piece he needs to set up in a defensive 4-3-2-1 that gives little away.
Like it did against Kansas City two weeks before, the Dynamo repelled every threat until a Branko Boskovic effort levelled Sunday’s second leg when it was already too late.
And as a result of its 4-2 aggregate win at RFK, the Texans are in line for a return to MLS Cup, where as a fifth seed they’ll play on the road against L.A. or Seattle — simply another mountain to move.
“It’s fun being on this team because of the determination,” Houston ’keeper Tally Hall told NBC’s Martino post-game. “It has been an uphill battle so far and it will continue to be.”
In two Sundays the Dynamo will look to avenge last season’s MLS Cup loss to the L.A. Galaxy.
In the end, United simply couldn’t get things going without Chris Pontius and Dwayne De Rosario 90 minutes fit. Add to that Andy Najar’s suspension and United troubled Houston just once through the first 45 without three of its top attackers buzzing up top … The home side’s only first-half chance arrived 10 minutes in when fullback Chris Korb connected on a half-volley from 25 metres that handcuffed Hall … Garcia provided the dagger in the 34th minute when with the ball on a string, Houston’s Brad Davis skipped around a pair of DC defenders close to the goal line before slotting to Garcia. The Honduran roofed a close-range attempt over a helpless Bill Hamid to improve the Dynamo’s aggregate lead to 4-1.
With nothing to lose coming out of the half, head coach Ben Olsen set United up in a 3-5-2 in search of three goals to force extra time … It nearly paid off in the 48th when DC’s Lionard Pajoy chested a Korb cross down to Robbie Russell, who skied a full volley over the frame from five metres … With one last gasp the Black and Red threw on De Rosario with 30 minutes remaining … In the 67th minute, Hamdi Salihi could have been in alone on Houston’s goal but a heavy first touch allowed Hall to collect. A minute later DC’s embattled DP spoiled an odd-man break when he tried to cut inside instead of shooting. Maicon Santos squandered United’s third look in as many minutes when he put a close-range header over the frame with 20 minutes remaining … The visitors had back-to-back chances to kill things off through a pair of breakaways in the 72nd and 78th. Kandji put one attempt wide of goal before having the other denied by Hamid … Despite Boskovic scoring during a nice individual run late on, the 4-2 deficit was too big an ask.
CUP ALL BUT SET
Discounting what would be a monumental collapse by the defending champion L.A. Galaxy in Seattle late Sunday night, the Dynamo looks set to return to the Home Depot Centre for a second chance at capturing the Cup in southern California.
Following a first-leg rout of the Sounders, the Galaxy needed only to avoid falling by three or more goals to host MLS Cup for a second straight year.