HOUSTON -- Many scenarios could have, of course, played out for the Houston Dynamo on Monday night as they hosted Leg 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Portland Timbers. The result on the night, a 0-0 draw, isn’t the worst of them.
The draw extends Houston’s shutout streak to 447 consecutive minutes played without conceding a goal. After denying the Timbers any away goal advantage, the series now shifts to the Rose City on Nov. 5. There, it could be Houston with the leg up on the competition if the Dynamo are able to score.
Portland won’t go quietly into the night, which means that Houston’s best bet to advance to the Western Conference Finals might be to do something they’ve only done only once this season — win a game on the road. That sole road win came in July when a depleted Dynamo, who were missing four regular starters who were away at the Gold Cup, defeated DC United 3-1. In the six road games after the win at the nation’s capital, Houston went 0-2-4.
“Right now what we need to do is we have to take the positive,” Cabrera said of the results of Monday night's match. “We didn’t concede against a team that scored a lot of goals [in the regular season], and we’re still in a position that we can go to Portland and qualify in 90 minutes or whatever situation happens, we can qualify, because the game is still 0-0.”
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Sunday’s game can’t end in with another scoreless result, which means both teams will have to come out and play. Cabrera is aware that his side has only scored one goal in 210 minutes of playoff action, but said that this isn’t the regular season, in which players take more risks.
“The risk that is taken is minimal and nobody commits errors,” he said. “We need to understand that in the playoffs one goal is enough.... One goal makes the difference between classifying or being on vacation.”
Phillipe Senderos, who helped Houston extended its unbeaten streak to eight games dating back to the regular season, is confident the Dynamo can find the back of the net in Portland. “It was important not to concede tonight, because we know we have a lot of firepower and can create chances,” he said. “We saw tonight that they [Portland] were wary; they knew that we had dangerous players and they didn’t press us that much, but it will be a tough game out there.”
It'll be a tough game indeed as Houston will have to do it against a Timbers squad that lost only twice at home during the regular season.
“This is now a do-or-die game and we have to leave it all on the field,” said Dynamo forward Alberth "La Panterita" Elis. “This could very well be our last game, so we have to play for a victory or a positive result that will take us to the [Western Conference] finals.