HOUSTON – It wasn’t always pretty, but it sure was effective. And for the second straight year, the Houston Dynamo are in position to end Sporting Kansas City’s season.
Behind a brilliant first-half strike from Adam Moffat and Will Bruin’s third goal of the postseason, Houston extended their unbeaten streak at home to 27 games on Sunday afternoon, handing top-seeded Kansas City a 2-0 loss in the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals in front of 20,689 fans at BBVA Compass Stadium.
That’s a familiar score for both camps. It was a repeat of last season’s 2-0 Dynamo victory in the Eastern Conference Championship at Livestrong Sporting Park, where the two teams will wrap up this series on Wednesday (9 pm ET, MLS Live).
The win also extended Houston’s unbeaten streak against their conference rivals to five games over the past year, and put Dominic Kinnear’s side in prime position to earn a second straight trip to the conference finals.
And although the Dynamo looked a tad off the pace in the first quarter of an hour, one moment of magic from Moffat righted the ship and set the tone for a frustrating match for Sporting.
With Kansas City struggling to clear their area following a corner kick in the 18th minute, Seth Sinovic’s clearance fell to Bruin, who nodded the ball into the Scotsman’s path. Moffat took a touch then swiveled and drove his foot through the ball off the bounce, unleashing a technically perfect strike inside the back post that Jimmy Nielsen could only wave at as it whizzed past him.
Sporting Kansas City, meanwhile, struggled with the ball at their feet for most of the first 45 minutes, completing 58 percent of their passes to the Dynamo’s 64 percent. Their best opportunities of the half came through forward C.J. Sapong, who had a goal-bound shot blocked and chased down a poor clearance by Tally Hall before forcing a tight-angle save out of the Houston ‘keeper.
Even though their combination play was lacking, both sides had their fair share of set pieces, with Graham Zusi and fellow set-piece specialist Brad Davis whipping in service. None really threatened either goalkeeper, however, and each side bunkered down into a midfield battle that favored Houston.
Neither manager made a chance until Kinnear was forced to go to his bench in the 55th minute, when Jermaine Taylor hobbled off with an injury suffered near the end of the first half when his left knee gave after blocking a Zusi drive in the box.
Andre Hainault replaced the Jamaican center back, but his presence was barely needed, as Houston took control of the game and eventually cashed in to score an all-important second goal.
The buildup wasn’t complicated – throw in, cross and finish – as Calen Carr turned Aurélien Collin and sped toward the end line, eventually picking out Bruin for a simple finish inside the six-yard box in the 75th minute. Houston threatened to add a third, but were turned away by a series of miscues and last-ditch defending from the visitors.
The winner of the series will advance to the Eastern Conference Championship against either D.C. United or New York.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Bobby Boswell||Yes, Bruin and Moffat got the goals, but Boswell set the tone for Houston all afternoon: rough and tough.|
|2||Will Bruin||His red-hot postseason continues. Another goal and an assist, and peaking at the just the right time.|
|3||Adam Moffat||His first-half goal didn't come as surprise. The guy strikes a ball as well as almost anyone in the league.|