HARRISON, N.J. – For a split second, Omar Cummings thrust his hand in the air, practically willing referee Silviu Petrescu to award the goal the would eventually send the Dynamo to the Eastern Conference Championship.
In a game of inches, Cummings wasn’t sure his scrappy, lunging effort in extratime had actually beaten Luis Robles after watching from the seat of his pants as the Red Bulls goalkeeper dove and pinned the ball near the goal line.
“I’m like, ‘Please let it go over the line.’ Obviously he stopped it, and I wasn’t sure actually if it crossed the line,” Cummings told reporters following Houston’s 2-1 extratime victory, their first ever in New York. “I was looking around to the referee or the linesman to see if it went across the line. When he pointed to the spot, I was happy.”
And for good reason.
For the second straight match, the Jamaican made the most of his substitute role, following up Sunday’s game-tying goal in Houston – his first of the season after arriving via trade from Colorado in December – with the game-winner in the 104th minute that kept the Dynamo on track for a third consecutive MLS Cup appearance.
On Sunday, defender Bobby Boswell managed to snag a celebratory piggyback ride from Cummings. On Thursday, he marveled at the timely production from a player who arrived with high expectations before injuries robbed him of any real regular-season contributions.
“Credit to Omar for scoring two big goals,” Boswell said. “Kind of comes out of nowhere from the beginning of the year to the playoffs. It’s a great time to start thriving.”
Added Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear: “We brought him here for a reason. He’s definitely making me look good.”
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In truth, Kinnear had little choice but to turn to Cummings. Playing their third game in seven days, the Dynamo barely threatened for the first 60 minutes of the match, the lone goal coming after Brad Davis pounced on a Ibrahim Sekagya howler while their 4-4-2 setup posed few, if any, real problems for the Red Bulls.
So, as they did three days prior at BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston turned to the bench, sending Cummings and Andrew Driver on for Will Bruin and Warren Creavalle before the 70th minute and shifting into a 4-5-1 that Kinnear hoped would get the club’s danger man on the ball more.
“I was just trying to break their line of pressure and the best way we were doing that was to probably getting [Boniek Garcia, pictured at right] on the ball in the middle,” he said. “So we pushed him in there and I think our attack was a little bit more together. We dropped in Omar to go to that 4-5-1, but still wanted Omar to join the attack too, which he did well.”
Still, it took one more change to create the extratime goal that seemed almost inevitable after the fact.
That came nine minutes into extra time when Cam Weaver entered for Giles Barnes, giving Houston the target man whose knock-down header would eventually find Cummings’ foot for a dramatic goal that was eerily similar to the one the erased the Red Bulls’ advantage three nights before.
Neither was pretty, but on a night in which the visitors managed just three shots on target, the Dynamo, like Cummings, were just happy to see the ball cross the line.
“This time of the year, you can’t just commit to playing pretty soccer. Do you want to win or do you want to play pretty?” Davis said. “We’d love to play pretty and win all the time, but you also realize that’s not going to happen. You’ve got to be willing to adapt, and guys are willing to get out of their comfort zones and do what you have to do to win games.”