Last night, in a frigid 42 degrees at Toyota Park, the Houston Dynamo eliminated the Chicago Fire from the playoffs. Head coach Dominic Kinnear is at it again, and has many believing his team can make its second-consecutive MLS cup.
Houston was pedestrian on the road all season (3-9-5)—a step up from its 2-6-9 record in 2011—but played an impressive 90 minutes of soccer that propelled it to a 2-1 victory.
The Dynamo were poised from the start and took advantage of the Fire’s shaky play. Brad Davis’ assist off a corner kick led to Will Bruin’s header in the 12th minute and gave Houston the early lead.
The Fire had only allowed six goals off a set piece all season, but their first of the playoffs was costly.
Davis, who has 92 career assists (46 off a set piece), had no issues connecting with the Dynamo’s top scorer, due in large part to Jalil Anibaba’s slippery footing inside the box.
Houston would maintain control for the remainder of the match.
Chicago’s 4-2-3-1 formation was setup primarily to defend, but shoddy defending allowed Calen Carr to send a beautiful ball in the box that led to Houston’s next score. Bruin had no issues on his run, and his brace gave Houston a stunning 2-0 lead just seconds after the half.
It was a lead Houston would not relinquish, and it will now face a stingy Sporting Kansas City side that only allowed a league-best 27 goals this season. Sporting KC is heavily favored to represent the Eastern Conference in the MLS Cup, but don’t count out the Dynamo.
Houston has not lost to Kansas City this season (1-0-2) and are undefeated at BBVA Compass Stadium (11-0-6).
Another performance like the one that led Houston to its 2-1 victory over Sporting KC back in July, coupled with a hard-fought draw on the road, could send a shock wave through the MLS.
It won’t be easy for the Dynamo.
Kansas City has gone 63 consecutive matches without conceding a goal on a corner kick and has allowed the fewest shots on goal (102) in the MLS (via Jonathon Feyerherm).
The Dynamo must rely on a precision-passing, possession-oriented attack in order to break down Sporting KC’s tough defense. Houston possessed the ball a league-best 55.93 percent this season, and its 81.53 passing accuracy was the second-highest in the MLS (via Jonathan Kaplan).
It is a formula that could spark another Cinderella run for Coach Kinnear and his team—similar to the one last year that saw Houston eliminate Sporting KC in the Conference Finals.
It would be the Dynamo’s fourth appearance in the MLS Cup in seven years, but four matches remain before Houston can accomplish such an incredible feat.
A repeat performance like the one it had last night could go a long way in achieving its championship aspirations.
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