The Houston Dynamo and LAFC played 131 minutes of soccer including stoppage time before heading to the shootout for the customary five tries. Not even that played true to form as it took eight attempts before Dynamo goalkeeper Joe Willis stopped Latif Blessing to send Houston to the 2018 final with a (7) 3-3 (6) win. The third time was the history making charm for the Dynamo. Houston had failed in its two previous tries in 2006 and 2009. With each passing Cup game in 2018, Houston declared unequivocally that winning the Cup was their goal.
“I’m proud of the players. I appreciate the support of the fans,” said Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera in the postgame press conference. “So, since 2009 we haven’t been in the final. Houston Dynamo is in the final, and it’s well deserved. To the city, to the fans, and it’s well deserved by my players. I’m really happy. I’m proud of them because we’ve been suffering a while. It’s been difficult, but they haven’t given up, and that’s the most important thing.”
Diego Rossi slipped in behind the Dynamo defense in the 6th minute giving LAFC the early lead. It would be the first of three for the Uruguayan who is now tied with David Ochoa for the 2018 scoring cup lead with five. Rossi became the youngest player in the modern era (1995-pres) to record a hat trick after the quarterfinals but even that was not enough.
Houston 23-7-7 over the last two seasons under head coach Wilmer Cabrera showcased their resiliency and tenacity six minutes later. Andrew Wenger unmarked on the far post tapped home an Adam Lundqvuist corner to level the match.
Mauro Manotas, quickly climbing the all-time scoring ladder in Houston, powered a top shelf shot into the upper 90 giving the Dynamo a 2-1 lead in the 25th minute. For the young Colombian, it was his eighth career Open goal in nine appearances and his fourth of this series.
“We haven’t achieved our goal,” said Manotas following the game. “We just got one step closer. We haven’t won anything yet. We need to remain calm. We need to work hard because we also want to be in the playoffs. We need to be responsible. We are going to Columbus, and we need to win, I am sure that if we play like we did today, we will. El Profe (head coach Wilmer Cabrera) told us that when you are humble, you are driven, focused, and you are thinking about the team you can win any game.”
Despite a flurry of opportunities, it wasn’t until Memo Rodriguez blasted home a right-footed shot that Houston had a two goal lead with 15 minutes to play.
The almost insurmountable lead vanished at the foot of Rossi as he pulled LAFC to within one in the 78th minute and then found the equalizer at 90 +4.
Meanwhile LAFC keeper Tyler Miller continued to frustrate Houston scorers sending not only the game to extra time but on to the shootout. Miller, continuing his outstanding play, seemed to have won it for the Black and Gold when he stopped Boniek Garcia on Houston’s fourth shot.
Dynamo keeper Joe Willis, no stranger to the US Open or to penalty shootout, came through again. First, he stopped Ciman to give Houston a fighting chance and then Latif Blessing to secure the win and advance to his second Cup final. Willis was a keeper during DC United’s 2013 championship run.
I wasn’t happy with the way I played tonight,” said Willis in the postgame locker room. “ I just wanted to get a couple stops and help the team advance.”
Houston will take on Philadelphia in the final on September 26 at BBVA Compass Stadium. Kick-off and other information to follow.