The Houston Dynamo did what they needed to do in order to wrap up second place in the Western Conference standings with a gritty 3-2 victory against Chivas USA.
Now that the club can focus on the postseason, however, coach Dominic Kinnear isn't exactly happy with what lies ahead for his team.
Houston will have to play at Seattle Sounders FC on Thursday in the first leg of their Western Conference Semifinal Series, in what will be the team's fourth game in a span of 12 days.
"I'm worried about how many games they've played," Kinnear said about his players. "Now we're playing on Thursday and the league didn't take into account that we played in CONCACAF on Wednesday. It's unfair."
Houston has played games at home, in El Salvador and southern California before visiting the Emerald City in Seattle's first-ever MLS playoff game. Already the task of playing at Seattle was going to be difficult -- Seattle sold their playoff tickets out in about 30 minutes on Saturday -- but doing so with a somewhat gassed team will make things even tougher.
"We played three games in eight days all over the place," Houston 'keeper Pat Onstad said. "It's been tough but we'll regroup and get ready for Seattle on Thursday."
The club will remain in southern California until Tuesday before heading to the Pacific Northwest. While having to play on short notice will be tough, at least the team has been able to cut down on their travel, Onstad said.
"The good thing is that we're going to stay in here and then head up so we don't have to fly across the country," Onstad said. "It's going to be a tough game against a good team."
Houston got a taste of what could be in store during the playoffs against Chivas USA on Sunday. The team had highs (a 3-0 lead after 52 minutes) and lows (having to hold on for three points). Early on, Chivas USA nearly opened the scoring and could have made the game much different.
"In the first half, they were probably a little unlucky not to have a lead or at least be drawn at halftime," Kinnear said. "That's the way soccer goes sometimes, the team that takes their chances is the team that comes out on top."
Chivas USA had a shot just five minutes in and could have opened the scoring and put Houston on its heels. Justin Braun walked in alone on Onstad in the fifth minute but failed to put away his shot from outside the box.
"I saw it come through and my first concern was (Maicon) Santos and whether he was going to go," Onstad said. "But I saw Braun out of the corner of my eye and at that stage I was probably a little higher than I would have liked but I just held my ground and kind of got a little bit of a read on it and got my finger to it."
Instead of the hosts opening what could have been a commanding and insurmountable lead, it was Houston who took control of the game. Andrew Hainault scored off a corner kick when Ryan Cochrane headed a ball off Brad Davis' cross into the box back towards Hainault, who buried his attempt into the back of the net.
Davis then fed Oduro, who raced in on a breakaway and easily beat Zach Thornton from about 15 yards out.
"We got the goal and it kind of gave us some confidence and a boost of energy and we get a second goal and the confidence grows from there," Kinnear said.
Abe Thompson, who replaced Luis Angel Landin late in the first half, put Houston up 3-0 when he finished off a pass from Geoff Cameron from inside the 6-yard box.
Chivas USA though nearly came all the way back. Michael Lahoud scored in the 59th minute to cut into Houston's lead. Eduardo Lillingston had a goal disallowed in the 74th minute but scored a legitimate goal in the 88th minute on a penalty kick.
Despite making things interesting, Houston was able to hold on to the win.
"We kind of seem to have a history this year of getting nice leads and kind of blowing them," Onstad said. "That's something obviously we can't do in the playoffs. Over the last 20 minutes, we didn't have much left."
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com