Playoff berth booked, Houston Dynamo forced to wait to learn opponents

There is a lot less angst on the Houston Dynamo’s flight home Sunday night.

A week ago, the team did not know if a win at D.C. United in their finale would be good enough to book a playoff spot. It turns out it was, as the Dynamo got a 2-1 victory and booked a seventh trip to the playoffs in eight seasons.

“We can sit back and enjoy the game instead of pacing up and down the airport biting our nails off,” goalkeeper Tally Hall told MLSsoccer.com by phone after the match.

That pacing is no longer necessary because Houston got some help on Saturday. Toronto FC's upset of the Montreal Impact and Sporting Kansas City's win at Philadelphia made the equation simple for Houston: a win and they were in.

“It’s nice having that in your back pocket, knowing you control your own destiny,” Hall’s said. “There’s something to be said about that and obviously [it’s] a big boost for us. Now we’re on to the playoffs. We all know anything can happen once you’re in the playoffs."

D.C. didn't make it easy on the Dynamo. Playing to avoid setting a new record for fewest wins in a season, United went for the victory from the start. They pressed the pace and controlled the ball for 58 percent of the game. In the process they had Houston on their heels several times.

“At times the game got open but they were playing to win the game,” head coach Dominic Kinnear told MLSsoccer.com. “They’re going to get their chances just because of the amount of players they’re throwing forward and putting balls in the box.”

Houston countered D.C.’s enthusiasm on the back of strong performances from Giles Barnes, who combined well with Will Bruin while earning the penalty that Boniek Garcia converted and scoring the winning header in the 39th minute, and Tally Hall, who put on a Save of the Week candidate to stop Chris Korb in the first half.

After the match, Houston can only watch. Not to see if they make the playoffs, but instead to see what their seeding is. The New England Revolution won at the Columbus Crew, pushing the Dynamo into 4th place, meaning they would host a midweek Knockout Game. They could fall to 5th, still if the Chicago Fire beat the New York Red Bulls. In that case, they would have to travel to New England for a midweek Knockout Game.

So, Houston flew back to the Bayou City knowing they could be anywhere from third and readying for a semifinal or 5th and preparing to travel for a play-in game in midweek.

“We’re going to keep an eye on it until we’re on the plane…and as soon as we land I guarantee phones will go and word will be spread around,” Hall said before they took off. “As soon as we know we can get prepared for that specific battle.

“Knowing that we’re in, it’s fun now. It’s exciting and we’re ready for it.”

Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.