HOUSTON DYNAMO vs MONTREAL IMPACT
BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, Texas
Oct. 31, 2013 (MLS Cup Playoffs Knockout Round)
7:30 p.m. CT; NBCSN; TSN/RDS; CSN-Hou)
The second and final Knockout Round game of the MLS Cup Playoffs gets underway Thursday evening when the Montreal Impact visit the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium in a winner-take-all match for the right to play Supporters’ Shield champion New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Montreal have struggled down the stretch, having been shutout in five of their last seven matches, all losses, including a 1-0 defeat at Toronto FC over the weekend. The Impact, however, have beaten Houston in two of their three meetings this year. Houston secured their third consecutive postseason berth – which includes two straight MLS Cup final appearances – after beating the D.C. United over the weekend.
REFEREE: Mark Geiger. AR1 (bench): C.J. Morgante; AR2 (opposite): Brian Dunn; 4th: Armando Villareal
LEAGUE HEAD-TO-HEAD: HOU 2 wins, 7 goals … MTL 3 wins, 12 goals … Ties 1
2013 HEAD-TO-HEAD: HOU 1 win, 1 goal … MTL 2 wins, 7 goals … Ties 0
AT BBVA COMPASS STADIUM:
10/4: HOU 1, MTL 0 (R. Clark 6)
MLS CUP PLAYOFFS: First meeting.
- The Dynamo secured a postseason berth for the third consecutive year with the victory at D.C. United. The Dynamo have missed out on the playoffs just one season since their arrival in Houston – in 2011 – and have appeared in four MLS Cups, including the last two.
- “It was probably more of a different road than years past. We started out well, hit a rough patch in the middle and I think we finished pretty strong," said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear. "I think we’ve lost one of our last seven, so in six of our seven we’ve picked up points which has been crucial to get to the playoffs here.”
- The Dynamo extended their road undefeated streak to three games with the win in Washington to conclude the season. They return home for the Knockout Round match off a draw and a loss in their last two home matches – shut out in both of those.
- "I do feel like last year, the run that we made and that play-in game … it did help us," said Brad Davis. "We were on a little bit of a roll at the end of the year. It took us a long time to get a road win and then we finally did towards the end there. It was good, and then we were able to get right back out on the field again and continue that momentum and that push."
- Giles Barnes finished as the Dynamo's top scorer with nine goals in 2013, netting the opener in the regular-season finale vs. D.C. United. “It’s definitely confidence going towards the playoffs,” Barnes said. “Main thing is I’ve been playing well and doing my job for the team. I always believed in my abilities when I get chances in front of goal.” Said Brad Davis: "It was good for him to find the back of the net. You always want your forwards scoring goals. ... I think it was good for everybody to see him score a goal, but for him as well, to get that touch back going into the playoffs.”
- Barnes scored four goals from headers, two coming on corner kicks. The Dynamo scored nine goals over the 2013 season from set pieces, tied for fourth-most in MLS (FC Dallas led with 16). “I’ve always been used on attacking set pieces as the one taking them. When you’ve got Brad [Davis’] and Boniek [Garcia’s] delivery, it’s on me to get in the mixer and get on the end of things,” Barnes said.
- For the season finale, Kinnear had just one change, with Eric Brunner coming in central defense for Jermaine Taylor. Over the final six matches of the season, Kinnear used just 13 different starters.
- "I think when we had that bad patch in the second third of the season, we were missing a lot of guys and we were just a little bit inconsistent with the lineup," Kinnear said. "I think now in the last little bit we’ve been a little more consistent with our lineup and I think the results kind of show that we have a good team.”
- The Impact concluded their second MLS season with a 1-0 defeat at Toronto FC, their third consecutive loss on the road, all by shutout. The Impact have been blanked in five of their last seven matches – all defeats.
- "We were disappointed. Everyone knows it was an important game for us and we wanted to show that we are a playoff team. It’s hard to deal with that," said defender Hassoun Camara.
- As late as Sept. 8, the Impact were tied for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. They would have failed to reach the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time if Chicago had defeated New York on the season's final day. “I’m positive,” defender Matteo Ferrari said. “We spoke with the team in the locker room, and the good thing was that nobody was really happy. I think it’s a good thing because as we said, maybe we don’t [deserve] to be there, but we are. And now we’ve got to play.”
- The Impact still have yet to win in Toronto in the club's history. “The first half, we weren’t very good,” said Impact coach Marco Schallibaum. “A lot of mistakes, a lot of tension. There were errors. The second half was better. Not much better, but better. There were also chances to score, maybe (make it) 1-1. But it was not good enough to win this game today. And that’s a pity.”
- The Impact won just one of their final eight matches, since the 4-2 win Sept. 8 at New England, taking just four of a possible 24 points to conclude the season.
- “It’s true that we were really good in the first half of the season, but in the end, we didn’t deserve that [third] spot,” Schallibaum said. “There’s some justice in life, and that’s why I’m still happy, when we look at the whole season, to see that we deserved that fifth spot.”
- Marco Di Vaio ended the season in third place in the MLS Golden Boot standings with 20 goals – none coming from penalty kicks.
- In the season finale, center back Alessandro Nesta was ruled out with an injury. Patrice Bernier missed his third match of the last five to conclude the campaign, suffering from a hip injury. “It’s not easy, because [Patrice] is an important player and we want him at 100 percent,” assistant coach Mauro Biello said. “Sometimes, we’ll also need feedback from him to see how he feels after training so it helps our decision-making. We’ll see in the next few days and we’ll make a decision.”