It's official. The 2012 Houston Dynamo are headed for the MLS Playoffs for a sixth time in seven short years. The Dynamo took care of business with a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Union on Saturday night, while D.C. United beat Columbus to seal the Eastern Conference playoff race. With the victory, Houston also became the fourth team in MLS history to finish a season unbeaten at home (11-0-6).
The only thing left to decide in the final week of of the MLS regular season will be the placement of the top five Eastern Conference clubs going into the playoffs.
The Dynamo knew a victory would continue to keep them in the driver seat of their 2012 destiny, but with a little help from an Eastern Conference opponent, the night could end in celebration and another playoff berth.
Houston jumped all over the Union, getting the game's first goal in the 5' thanks to a nice play from forward Macoumba Kandji. Adam Moffat knocked a ball in the air near Kandji and Union defender Carlos Valdes. Kandji tapped the ball past Valdes and finished with a shot past Zac MacMath to the far post giving Houston the early lead. The goal gives Kandji four on the year, tying his career best (New York, 2009).
The Union countered in the 19' when Sheanon Williams sent in a nicely placed cross to Jack McInerney. McInerney knocked the ball into the corner of the net and Tally Hall couldn't do anything but watch. After watching the replay a number of times, it looks as if Hall thinks it might just go wide.
Macoumba Kandji nearly sent the sellout crowd into a frenzy in the 39' by starting a nice sequence that nearly saw him give Houston the lead again. Kandji collected a loose ball and sent a pass out wide to a streaking Adam Moffat. Moffat played it off to Brad Davis who sent in a perfect cross to the feet of Kandji who sent it into the stands. Kandji had an open goal, but just couldn't finish. Both teams entered the half knotted at one.
The second half started out nicely with Boniek Garcia and Mac Kandji getting consecutive shots on goal, only to be denied by MacMath. Brad Davis got in on goal in the 66' but his chip over MacMath hit the post, keeping the game level.
Brian Ching entered the game for Mac Kandji in the 67' giving Houston freshness at forward. Ching's play off the bench has been electric over the last several games and he's consistently been able to create chances for the Dynamo game after game. Once again, the Dynamo legend immediately made his presence felt.
Houston's second goal started with Tally Hall quickly rolling out the ball into a crowd to the feet of Brad Davis who tapped it to a streaking Ching. The Union didn't close down any angles for Ching who was able to take his time and pick out his man. Ching passed it out wide to Boniek Garcia who stopped the ball right outside the box and shot in a rocket that MacMath just couldn't stop. Houston's lone designated player is only adding to his stock with his fourth goal of the year. What an addition he has been to men in orange.
In the 73' Ching sets up another opportunity to get his team to the playoffs. Ching lobbed a pass from midfield to Will Bruin who was one on one with Carlos Valdes. Bruin's shot went wide of the goal, but Valdes was called for a penalty by referee Mark Geiger. Brad Davis stepped up and buried the penalty for a commanding 3-1 lead.
With the win (and the Columbus loss), Houston has booked their ticket to the MLS playoffs. Where they will finish is yet to be seen. As of tonight, the Dynamo could potentially finish as high as third or as low as fifth. Dynamo Theory will have you covered on all the possible scenarios as we head towards the final week of play. The simple answer about seeding is win and we could move up, draw or lose and we'll probably walk in the fifth seed. Look out for more on the playoff picture Monday.
As for tonight's game, Houston did exactly what they needed to do. Dominate the game and get the three points. Houston controlled the game from start to finish and I had little doubt we wouldn't walk away with all three points. They finished with 58% of the possession, outshot the Union 18-7, and held the Union to one shot on goal. That's right... their one goal was their only shot on goal.
Houston will finish the regular season against the Colorado Rapids (34 points, 10-19-4, 7th in West) on October 27th. Their game is the last of the final weekend so by game time, they should know what position they will or could finish in the playoff race. Before finishing the regular season, Houston will face off with Honduran powerhouse Olimpia in the final group stage game of the CONCACAF Champions League on Tuesday, October 23rd at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Congratulations Dynamo fans! Dream. Scream. Believe. is here once again. It's officially time to stop shaving.