HOUSTON – It's playoff time in Houston and the Dynamo showed just what that means on Thursday night, cruising to a 3-0 victory over the Montreal Impact to claim the Eastern Conference Knockout Round game and move on to another grudge match with the New York Red Bulls.
As if the regular season never happened, Houston picked up right where they left off in 2012’s Eastern Conference playoffs. The Dynamo ramped up the energy and strung together passes to go with a finishing clinic from Will Bruin, who scored twice, and a penalty kick strike from Boniek García to do in a struggling Impact side that finished the match with eight men.
Bruin first showed his finishing skill by picking up the ball and playing it to Ricardo Clark at the top of the box with the help of a miscue from Matteo Ferrari. Clark turned a snazzy backheel in traffic to put Bruin through, and the 6-foot-2 forward made no mistake with the first touch and ensuing finish past goalkeeper Troy Perkins to give Houston a 1-0 lead in the 16th minute.
Rewind: MLSsoccer.com Postgame Live
Just 11 minutes later García effectively buried the Impact. After picking Hassoun Camara's pocket, García took on three defenders and a charging Hernán Bernardello came crashing in to bring him down in the box for a clear penalty kick. The Honduran stepped up himself and drilled the spot kick home for a commanding 2-0 lead.
After Nelson Rivas was shown a second yellow for an elbow on Bruin in the second half, the forward completed his second career playoff brace in the 71st minute. Corey Ashe hit a ball over the top to Bruin, who took a touch and outpaced Ferrari for the ball. He then added a touch to beat Perkins before firing home from the top of the box to finalize the 3-0 romp. Bruin now has six playoff goals, just one behind the Dynamo record of seven by Brian Ching.
While the Dynamo were dominating much of the run of play, Montreal struggled to create as their route-one approach to hit 20-goal scorer Marco Di Vaio was snuffed out by an active Dynamo defender or the forward playing himself offside.
Di Vaio managed to come up with a pair of half-chances in the game, but Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall was up to the task each time, including on a play in the 61st minute. Warren Creavalle hit a panicked ball that found its way to Di Vaio 30 yards from goal, but the skilled striker could only look on in frustration as his blistering shot was parried by a diving Hall to preserve the clean sheet and then-two-goal lead.
Montreal finished the game with the wrong kind of fight, as Andrés Romero kicked out at Kofi Sarkodie in the final moments to prompt a scrum and a battle between Di Vaio and Ashe. Romero was red carded in the aftermath, as was Di Vaio, for putting his hands in Ashe’s face during the fracas.
Houston will be back at BBVA Compass Stadium on Sunday to host the first leg of their Eastern Conference Semifinals series against the Red Bulls, who beat the Dynamo in all three of their regular-season meetings this year, including two in Houston.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Will Bruin||What drought? Bruin scored two well-taken goals and looked every bit like an in-form striker, keeping Montreal's back line busy with his energy.|
|2||Ricardo Clark||The Dynamo midfielder enjoyed a strong night on both sides of the ball. His clever and creative back heel helped set the tone for an easy night for Houston.|
|3||Tally Hall||Hall was not tested too much, but came through when he was and also did well to come off his line to snuff out several potential Di Vaio attacks.|