HOUSTON – With 30,018 fans in the stands, there was quite a bit at stake for the Houston Dynamo on Sunday night.
The players knew a win over the LA Galaxy could push them up to a second-place finish in the Eastern Conference, and past a pesky away wild card fixture. But there was a concern on Houston’s part that they’d come out tight against a reserve-laden Galaxy team that had little to play for.
With a slow start affecting both teams, it looked like the game could game drag on much longer than the Dynamo would have liked.
Then Adam Moffat broke the tension.
In the 27th minute, the midfielder hit a rocket from 38 yards out – his second from beyond 30 this season – to break the ice in what became a 3-1 Dynamo win.
“When you’re 38 yards out and you hit a ball so hard that Donovan Ricketts – who’s one of the best shot-stoppers in the league – doesn’t dive for it, it’s a special goal,” Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall said after the match. “Getting the first goal is always a major hump in any game, and today, it was equally important.”
The shot invigorated the Dynamo, revving up Houston’s attack and allowing them to put the game away. Bobby Boswell and Carlo Costly both added goals in the second half to put the game out of reach.
But it was Moffat’s goal that woke the Dynamo out of their sleep.
“The field was fast and bumpy and it made it difficult to get any rhythm,” said head coach Dominic Kinnear, who collected his 100th career win. “Then Adam’s shot just raised the level of intensity and the level of enjoyment for the team and the fans. We were all kind of shaking our heads at seeing him do this two times now.”
It was perhaps exactly what the Dynamo needed on a night in which they had to come out firing. Thanks to Moffat’s jumpstart, Houston got the job done, earning a date with the Philadelphia Union in the Conference Semifinals, including a second leg at home.
“We got some momentum from that,” Geoff Cameron said of the wonder-strike, “and then from there, it was a great night.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.