Stuart Holden's rebound goal, his second of the game, in the third minute of stoppage time, gave a 10-man Houston Dynamo an emotional and first-ever win Wednesday against the San Jose Earthquakes at Robertson Stadium.
With time winding down and a disappointing tie all but secured, the team created one last rush and Holden finished it for his third goal of the season.
Midfielder Brian Mullan started the rush and caught the San Jose defense off guard. He fed Nate Jaqua with a looping early cross from the right, and Jaqua's quick shot hit the near post before deflecting to Holden. Holden buried the easy goal past stunned San Jose 'keeper Joe Cannon.
When the game ended, giving the Dynamo a five-point advantage ahead of Chivas USA with two games to play, Eddie Robinson, whose misplayed backpass led to San Joses tying goal in the 68th minute, fell to the ground.
He was redeemed by Holden's goal which gave Houston a seven-match MLS unbeaten streak and 10 in a row in all competitions. The Dynamo improved to 11-1-7 in their last 18 matches overall.
Even before Holden's heroics, it looked like Jaqua was going to win it in the 91st minute. He and Mullan raced toward Cannon on a 2-on-1, but Jaqua could not settle Mullan's bouncing pass when all alone in front of the Earthquakes goal. Jaqua's ensuing shot was smothered by Cannon as he raced off his line, but Holden won it two minutes later.
Leading 1-0 and locked into another defensive battle against a team fighting for its playoff life, defender Robinson's lazy backpass to goalkeeper Pat Onstad set up the tying goal for San Jose.
Playing with 10 men because of Kei Kamara's red-card ejection in the 11th minute, forward Scott Sealy silenced the crowd with what amounted to an empty-net goal in the 68th minute. Onstad came out to clear Robinson's backpass just as substitute Ryan Johnson seemed ready to run onto it, but Sealy was there to intercept and drive it back into the unguarded goal.
The highly-anticipated matchup between two teams that share their ancestry had much on the line as the Dynamo entered the match needed wins to secure home field in the playoffs, and the Earthquakes virtually needed to win out just to qualify. The game was originally scheduled for Sept. 20 and was postponed due to the effects of Hurricane Ike on the Houston area.
The Dynamo jumped on the Earthquakes from the get-go and scored the first goal of the game in the sixth minute when Holden converted a rebound.
Brian Ching pushed play forward off a free kick and fed rookie Geoff Cameron, who looped a nice cross over to former San Jose forward Kamara. Kamara's shot glanced off the crossbar and wound up right in front of Holden, who chipped the rebound over Cannon for the 1-0 lead.
Kamara's second match against his former team would not last very long, as the forward was sent off by referee Jair Marrufo with a straight red card for an apparent elbow against San Jose defended Nick Garcia.
Despite being shorthanded from the 11th minute on, the Dynamo dominated the scoring chances for the balance of the first half as the Earthquakes struggled to break down the organized home side.
In the 23rd minute, Corey Ashe found some room with the ball and barreled in on Cannon on a short breakaway. Instead of chipping over the 'keeper, Ashe fired low and Cannon was there to make his biggest stop of the half.
Seven minutes later, Holden saw his bid for a second goal snuffed out when he missed wide right with a shot in the 30th minute. Ashe used some fancy footwork to work the ball around Jason Hernandez and fed Ching who quickly spotted Holden. Holden, however, ran out of room and chipped a relatively weak shot just wide of the far post.
Early in the second half, the Orange was not able to double its lead despite having four straight corner kicks to work with. They got a good look on the second try when a Ching header just missed after Cannon got a hand on the ball.
Both teams return to league play on Saturday night. The Dynamo will look to secure home-field advantage for the entirety of the Western Conference playoffs with a victory at home against the Los Angeles Galaxy, while the Earthquakes will look to keep their slim playoff hopes alive when they visit the Kansas City Wizards.
Andrew J. Ferraro is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.