In USOC, Dynamo get out in front, get caught and still find way forward

HOUSTON — Coming off a five-match winless streak in league play, the Houston Dynamo have found joy in their season again by stamping a ticket to their first-ever Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final.

Though LAFC attacker Diego Rossi scored in the 6th minute, Houston stormed back with three goals to take a commanding 3-1 lead. At home and in front of their fans, the Dynamo could taste the final – before the Uruguayan starlet forced extra time.

Then, after no side could take the result in open play, the Dynamo were the ones who prevailed, 3(7)-3(6), after eight grueling rounds of penalty kicks, and will host the Philadelphia Union (3-0 winners over Chicago) on September 26.

“We never give up and that’s the key,” said head coach Wilmer Cabrera. “I’m 100-percent sure they were rewarded, the way they displayed with that personality and passion during the PKs and we won.”

Watch every attempt from the eight-round penalty-kick shootout.

Goalkeeper Joe Willis came up with two saves in the penalty shootout, the second coming after Philippe Senderos’ winning penalty, and sent the 7,581 at BBVA Compass Stadium into a frenzy - and the opposing LAFC into heartbreak.

“It’s difficult in these types of games because you have extra time and both teams were tired,” said Rossi. “We had to find the way to finish the game - it’s something that we have to improve - but we are working on that, the season is not finished.”

LAFC’s head coach Bob Bradley was similarly forward-thinking, especially given the circumstances limiting his roster selection.

“We’ve got some injuries at the moment, so we’re a little bit thin,” said Bradley. “Obviously then, you have to make decisions based upon five internationals [being allowed in Open Cup play] so there’s a lot of factors but, at the end, what you say to the guys ahead of time is ‘Come on, man – we have a chance to get in the final, let’s believe in the way we go about things’ We’re going to get better and we’re going to get stronger.”

LAFC now return home after back-to-back road games to host Sporting Kansas City in a showdown of two top-four teams in the West on Saturday (10:30pm ET | TV & streaming info). Houston, on their end, have ground to make up in the playoff race and they’ll hope this win can be the catalyst.

It doesn’t get easier, however, as three red cards in the previous match will leave Houston without starters Alberth Elis, Darwin Ceren and Alejandro Fuenmayor for their away test against Columbus Crew SC on Saturday (7:30pm ET | TV & streaming info). The Dynamo will hope their Open Cup form translates over to league play and helps them rise through the Western Conference, where they currently reside in 10th place.

“I said that this game was very important,” said Dynamo midfielder Tomas Martinez. “Obviously, until the final gets here, there are still a lot of [MLS] games to play and we have to [figure out ways] to sum up points to qualify for the playoffs.”