Eric Christian Smith
The Houston Dynamo got a big 2-0 win over Sporting Kansas City in their first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinal showdown. Adam Moffat and Will Bruin scored the goals, sending the crowd home happy.
The fact is - it's only halftime. It's the first of two legs, but it's right where we need to be.
Behind two spectacular goals from open play, the Houston Dynamo now sit nicely going into the return match at Livestrong Park. Adam Moffat created another classic, while Will Bruin showed why he is quickly becoming one of the best young forwards in the league as the Dynamo defeated Sporting Kansas City 2-0 at BBVA Compass Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
I'm not quite sure what Houston has over Sporting Kansas City, but at this point it seems like something special. This is the third playoff match between these two clubs, and all three have ended in 2-0 Dynamo wins.
Sunday's match started off pretty even through the first fifteen minutes with both clubs getting a look or two, but not a tremendous amount of action. In the 18', the BBVA Compass Stadium crowd erupted when Adam Moffat collected a ball about 35 yards out (maybe a bit more), and fired an off balance rocket past Jimmy Nielsen.
The early goal seemed to change the pace of the game for Sporting Kansas City, who were never able to build momentum the rest of the match.
In the second half, SKC nearly equalized in the 71', but Graham Zusi's shot went wide of the post. That was Sporting's best chance of the day, with Zusi basically unmarked in the box. Five minutes later a quick throw in, coupled with some nice dribbling by Calen Carr, started the build up to the Dynamo's second goal. Carr tapped the ball past defender Aurelien Collin to set himself up with a nice run into the box. Bruin who was trailing in unmarked, buried the nicely placed ball to double Houston's lead.
Houston pressed for more, but SKC was able to escape with a two goal deficit heading back to Livestrong Park.
Post Game Reactions
Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes said after the match Houston "got numbers around us or fouled us. They broke the rhythm of the game very quickly." Overall, if physical play was a factor in the game, it was the faking of it that was. There were a few suspect fouls embellished by SKC that referee Edvin Jurisevic bought. The most controversial was Kei Kamara's Oscar winning performance that resulted in a Calen Carr yellow card in the 27'. Just take a look at the replays - Kamara goes down and looks like someone hit him with a shot from El Capitan.
Dominic Kinnear was all business post game, saying it was a tough game tonight and they'll have another one on Wednesday night. No celebrations - just work to do because it's only halftime. He didn't go into the physicality of the game, but did say "It wasn't a game for shy players."
While on the stat sheet, the game is about even - what Houston did tonight was clinical. Last week, the combination of Adam Moffat and Ricardo Clark neutralized the Chicago Fire and particularly Chris Rolfe. Dynamo Theory showcased Moffat's stalker like approach to the game in our most recent Soccer Science post. Against SKC, the duo did it again. Graham Zusi, the MLS assist leader, was barely visible in Sunday's match. Aside from his miss on goal in the 71', I nearly forgot he was on the pitch. That is not luck, that is great coaching from Dominic Kinnear and outstanding play by those two midfielders.
Will Bruin is special. We already knew this, but if the Dynamo continue their good form and advance to to the Eastern Conference Championship, MLS will have to take notice. Bruin now has three goals and an assist in Houston's two playoff matches of 2012. With Brian Ching possibly nearing the end of a spectacular career, it's nice to know we may have our striker of the future in Bruin.
Jermaine Taylor was subbed off in the 55' due to a knee injury. Taylor blocked a dangerous shot shortly before halftime, and was slow to get back on the pitch. He stayed on to start the second half, but 10 minutes in couldn't continue. Kinnear said after the match Taylor was "a man's man" and wouldn't come off the field unless it was bad. He said the team will find out more tomorrow about the extent of the injury.
Houston will travel to Kansas City for the return leg on Wednesday. Earlier this year, the Dynamo and SKC went scoreless at Livestrong Park. Houston will look to a similar game plan on Wednesday to make their way to the Eastern Conference Championship. The two leg series will be decided by aggregate goals and the winner will advance to face the New York Red Bulls/D.C. United winner.
The match will take place at Livestrong Park at 8:00 p.m. CST on Fox Sports Houston.