The Houston Dynamo limped into the second and final leg of the Western Conference Finals after losing 0-2 to the Seattle Sounders in Houston the previous week. The result meant that the Dynamo needed to win by two goals to draw the Sounders on aggregate to take the game into extra time and winning by more would seal their trip to the MLS Cup. Both sides were missing key figures with the Dynamo missing Alberth Elis and Jalil Anibaba due to yellow card accumulation and a red card respectively and Romell Quioto and Philippe Senderos out due to illness and injury respectively. The Sounders were without central defender Roman Torres.
In the early stages of the game the Dynamo came out with a lot more energy than they had in the previous leg with Vicente Sanchez and Tomas Martinez finding success on the dribble against the Sounder midfielders and defenders. Seattle had some luck of their own with Will Bruin giving a nice flick on to an attacker, but it was cut out and defended well by Adolfo Machado. For the first 10 minutes, Houston controlled the lion’s share of possession with Seattle only finding offense off the counter attack.
In the 12th minute, a poor turnover by Juan David Cabezas saw Christian Roldan getting loose down the left side of the field and sending in a low cross towards Clint Dempsey, but Machado was again there to put the ball out for a Seattle corner kick. Not long after Seattle’s chance, the Dynamo found an opportunity as Vicente Sanchez beat Kelvin Leerdam on the left side of the field and sent in a cross, but Mauro Manotas was out of position and there was no one to put a shot on target. Eric Alexander retrieved the ball near the corner of the 18 yard box, but was quickly dispossessed and committed a foul trying to win back the ball.
Sanchez was again involved in an opportunity this time he was fouled in a dangerous area which allowed Tomas Martinez to pick out Dylan Remick on the back post, but the header would go over and onto the top netting. Seattle responded with a near miss with Leerdam sending a ball through the Dynamo defense to an outstretched Dempsey who was off from making contact with it by inches.
Seattle put even more pressure on the Dynamo as they opened the scoring. Dylan Remick kept Will Bruin onside who sent a well weighted through ball to Victor Rodriguez who was able to chip Joe Willis in the 22nd minute. Vicente Sanchez nearly leveled the game with a brilliant run the middle of Seattle’s defense, but he pulled the ball wide of Stefan Frei and eliminated any angle for his shot.
Houston tried to equalize as DaMarcus Beasley was able to get behind the Sounder defense. The ball then fell to Tomas Martinez, but his shot was easily saved by Stefan Frei. Martinez tested Frei just two minutes later as Vicente Sanchez was able to pass to a wide open Martinez whose shot went back post, but Frei was able to make a secure save.
The Dynamo would go into halftime down 0-1 and 0-3 on aggregate. There were some promising moments, mostly coming from Martinez and Sanchez, but turnovers in midfield and from the defense have given Seattle some life on the offensive end which has made the hole that Houston has to climb out of even deeper.
Wilmer Cabrera made a halftime sub as he took off Eric Alexander bringing on Oscar Boniek Garcia. Houston was active on the attack early with Sanchez setting up Alex for a long ranged effort, but again, it was easily saved by Frei.
Dempsey would double Seattle’s lead in the 57th minute as a perfectly placed low cross by Joevin Jones found Clint Dempsey who tapped the ball into the net. On the play, it looked as if Dylan Remick was out of position which gave Jones so much room to make his cross.
Things would be worse for the Dynamo with Tomas Martinez seeing a straight red card. Following a play that saw Martinez fall to the ground as Jordy Delem went over the top going for a header. Martinez got up and placed a hand on Delem after not getting a whistle but was shoved from behind by Joevin Jones. Center official Hilario Grajedo motioned for VAR and must have decided that Martinez’s hand on the player deserved a straight red. Taylor Twellman disagreed with the decision and he seems to rarely agree with anything that benefits the Dynamo.
Bruin made it 3-0 to Seattle after a brilliant pass by Harry Shipp put the former Dynamo player 1v1 with Willis. Bruin calmly lifted the ball over Willis and put another dagger in the game for Houston. In the 84th minute a poor pass by Stefan Frei found Boniek Garcia who dribbled through the defense and set up Manotas for a shot on goal from inside the 6 yard box, but his shot somehow went wide of the goal.
The final whistle would blow and end the Dynamo’s remarkable turnaround of a season. After missing the MLS Cup playoffs three years in a row, Wilmer Cabrera was able to get the club to the Western Conference Finals. Coming into this game was never going to be easy with the club down two goals on aggregate, but the Dynamo were unable to find the score board and were left exposed at the back with some less-than-perfect defending. Regardless, the season was a fun ride; it’s just a shame it had to end on such a down note.
SEA – 22’ Victor Rodriguez
SEA – 57’ Clint Dempsey
SEA – 73’ Will Bruin
HOU – Yellow Card in the 29’ to Eric Alexander
SEA – Yellow Card in the 36’ to Nouhou Tolo
HOU – Red Card in the 66’ to Tomas Martinez
SEA – Yellow Card in the 67’ to Joevin Jones
HOU – Yellow Card in the 80’ to Erick Torres
Your Dynamo Starting XI: Willis; Remick, Machado, Leonardo, Beasley ©; Alexander, Sánchez, Cabezas; Martínez, Manotas, Alex #ForHoustonForever pic.twitter.com/meYhhs2Bd4— Houston Dynamo (@HoustonDynamo) December 1, 2017
Here's your @Delta Starting XI for tonight's match vs. @HoustonDynamo! Tune in to ESPN at 7:30 p.m. PT for #SEAvHOU.— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) December 1, 2017
It's time to #DefendOurCup! pic.twitter.com/DcxIF6jct6