KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Houston lost MVP candidate Brad Davis to injury in the first half, but it didn’t matter one bit. The Dynamo are going to Los Angeles.
Andre Hainault and Carlo Costly each scored in the second half as the Houston Dynamo defeated Sporting Kansas City 2-0 in front of a sellout crowd at Livestrong Sporting Park in the Eastern Conference Championship to advance to MLS Cup.
Houston will play the LA Galaxy at the Home Depot Center on Nov. 20. They also earned a place in the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League with the victory. Kansas City’s season is over after suffering just their third loss at LSP this season.
With a record 20,839 fans behind them, Sporting went right at the Dynamo from the opening whistle. Kei Kamara fired the game’s opening salvo in the second minute, forcing Tally Hall into a routine save while trying to find the back post with a low, driven shot.
The tide turned from there, though, at least when it came to legitimate scoring chances. Kansas City continued to put pressure on Houston, but Dominic Kinnear’s team found numerous chances to hit back on the counterattack.
Brian Ching was the first to come close to troubling Jimmy Nielsen, ghosting into space behind the Sporting defense in the eighth minute, but he was thrown off slightly by Aurélien Collin and chipped the ball onto the roof of the net. Another diagonal ball unlocked the Kansas City defense 10 minutes later, but Calen Carr fired his effort directly at Nielsen, who swept the ball away.
A few minutes later, Ching and Carr combined to create the first half’s best opportunity. Ching rose above Collin at the back post, heading the ball across the six-yard box, but Carr’s diving lunge came up just short, and the ball trickled out for a corner kick.
The game settled down for the next quarter of an hour until everything changed in the 35th minute when Davis was forced out of the game. The MLS MVP candidate tangled with Graham Zusi in the midfield and immediately went to ground clutching his right leg. After Davis spent a few minutes grimacing on the turf, Kinnear was forced to substitute Jermaine Taylor for his midfield talisman.
Kansas City took control for the rest of the half and had their best chance of the first 45 minutes just before the intermission. Zusi’s corner found Matt Besler at the back post, the central defender headed the ball back across frame but Hall was there to gather C.J. Sapong’s shot.
Neither side made a substitution at halftime, but the game itself changed significantly when Houston scored the opening goal early in the second half from, unsurprisingly, a set piece.
Following a foul on Seth Sinovic, Adam Moffat stepped over the ball in Davis’ stead in the 53rd minute and whipped a cross to the back post. The ball bounced around and took a deflection before ending up at Andre Hainault’s feet with an open net beckoning. Hainault dutifully bundled it in, sending the corner of Houston fans in attendance into a frenzy.
With the crowd silenced, an incredible defensive play by Matt Besler kept the score at 1-0 just two minutes later. Once again, Houston tore the Kansas City defense apart with a diagonal ball, and Corey Ashe ended up with the ball at his feet and charging into the area. He tried to find a teammate at the back post, but Besler’s desperate, sliding challenge knocked the ball to Nielsen at the last second.
Although they were up a man, the Dynamo kept pushing forward, putting Sporting on their heels with little chance to hit back.
The hosts managed few answers, though, and had a penalty appeal waved off in the 77th minute much to the chagrin of the home crowd. Davy Arnaud, who had replaced Roger Espinoza two minutes earlier, burst past Ching into the box, going to ground after what appeared to be contact just inside the area.
However, referee Mark Geiger waved off Kansas City’s appeals, leaving manager Peter Vermes’ side to chase the game for the final 15 minutes.
Desperate for an equalizer, Vermes replaced Júlio César and Seth Sinovic with Jéferson and Omar Bravo, but the changes didn’t pay the dividends that Kansas City was hoping for.
Houston kept their shape tight and limited Sporting’s possession before delivering the final blow in the 87th minute. Camargo’s splitting through ball sent substitute Costly through on goal, and the Honduran international made no mistake, banging a shot off the post to make the score 2-0 as Nielsen watched helplessly.
HOU -- Andre Hainault 2 (unassisted) 53
HOU -- Carlo Costly 1 (Luiz Camargo 1) 87
HOU -- Calen Carr (caution; Reckless Tackle) 17
KC -- Julio Cesar (caution; Reckless Foul) 30
HOU -- Luiz Camargo (caution; Reckless Tackle) 55
KC -- Roger Espinoza (caution; Dissent) 74
HOU -- Carlo Costly (caution; Shirt Removal) 87
Houston Dynamo -- Tally Hall, Andre Hainault, Bobby Boswell, Geoff Cameron, Corey Ashe, Danny Cruz, Adam Moffat, Luiz Camargo, Brad Davis (Jermaine Taylor 39), Brian Ching (Carlo Costly 78), Calen Carr (Will Bruin 68).
Substitutes Not Used: Alex Dixon, Hunter Freeman, Je-Vaughn Watson, Tyler Deric.
Sporting KC -- Jimmy Nielsen, Chance Myers, Matt Besler, Aurelien Collin, Seth Sinovic (Omar Bravo 85), Kei Kamara, Roger Espinoza (Davy Arnaud 75), Julio Cesar (Jeferson 82), Graham Zusi, C.J. Sapong, Teal Bunbury.
Substitutes Not Used: Birahim Diop, Michael Harrington, Soony Saad, Eric Kronberg.
Referee: Mark Geiger
Referee's Assistants: C.J. Morgante; Steven Taylor
4th Official: Chris Penso
Time of Game: 1:56
Weather: Sunny and 66 degrees