With the Houston Dynamo down a goal 64 minutes into Tuesday's CONCACAF Champions League match, there were any number of players on the field and bench that could have produced the necessary equalizer. It should be no surprise, though, that the equalizer came from Andre Hainault, a Canadian defender who has a knack for scoring big goals for the Dynamo. Let's take a look at some of his most important goals in Hainault's Dynamo career.
1. Houston Dynamo vs. Portland Timbers - 10/15/11
With the Dynamo's playoff fate in the balance, Houston went to the fortress of JELD-WEN Field and came away with a 2-0 victory. Hainault put the Dynamo on the board in the first half with a header off a Brad Davis corner kick. The win - and other results that weekend - clinched a playoff spot for Houston and helped kick start the Dynamo's run to the MLS Cup final.
2. Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting Kansas City - 11/6/11
With a berth in the MLS Cup final on the line, the Dynamo traveled to LIVESTRONG Sporting Park to face the top seeded Sporting Kansas City. Although Houston lost team MVP Brad Davis in the first half to a quad injury, the Dynamo continued to fight, and took a 1-0 lead in 53rd minute. After goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen stopped Jermaine Taylor's initial attempt off an Adam Moffat free kick, Hainault was there to knock the loose ball into the net and punch the Dynamo's ticket to the MLS Cup final.
3. Houston Dynamo vs. Olimpia - 10/23/12
The Dynamo needed only a draw to win Group 3 and advance to the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. But between Douglas Caetano's first half goal and and some questionable officiating, the Dynamo's chances of earning a point or more looked slim. That all changed in the 65th minute, when the Dynamo took advantage of one of their eight corner kicks on the evening. Nathan Sturgis curled a perfectly placed ball into the box and Hainault used his size advantage to redirect the ball past Olimpia goalkeeper Donis Escober, giving Houston a 1-1 tie and a berth in the quarterfinals.
4. Houston Dynamo vs. Philadelphia Union - 10/30/11
The Dynamo traveled to PPL Park for the first leg of a conference semifinal series with the Philadelphia Union. It did not take long for the visitors to prove they were a playoff contender, as Hainault's fifth-minute goal, set the tone for the match. Although Sebastien Le Toux leveled the match only minutes later, Calen Carr's goal in the 30th minute sealed the 2-1 win and brought home-field advantage back to Robertson Stadium.
5. Houston Dynamo vs. Chivas USA - 3/11/12
The Dynamo went 15 road games in 2011 without winning one. Hainault made sure that would not happen in 2012, scoring the decisive goal in a 1-0 win over Chivas USA in the season's opening match at The Home Depot Center.
If the Dynamo win or draw vs. Olimpia on Tuesday night, they will finish first in Group C and advance to the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions quarterfinals. The real fun begins next March, when the Dynamo play a home-and-home series with an opponent to be determined, for the right to advance to the semifinals.
Under CONCACAF regulations, the eight group winners will advance to the quarterfinals and will be paired based on their results in group play as follows:
1. Team 1 vs. Team 8
2. Team 2 vs. Team 7
3. Team 3 vs. Team 6
4. Team 4 vs. Team 5
The top four group winners with the best records will host the second leg in the quarterfinal stage. Should two or more group stage winners finish with the same number of points, tie-breakers will be used to determined the final eight seeds. Those tie-breakers are:
1. Best Goal Difference
2. Most Goals Scored
3. Most Goals Scored Away from home
4. Most Wins
5. Most Away Wins
6. Drawing of Lots
What does this all mean for the Dynamo? Currently, Houston has 7 points in their group and has a +6 goal differential. If the Dynamo win tonight, they will finish with 10 points. Only four group winners can finish with more than ten points, so depending on how the results go over the next three days, the final seeding could come down to goal differential. If the Dynamo can win and add on to their +6 goal differential, they will go into the quarterfinal stage in a better position.
To put this into perspective, if the CCL group stage ended now, the Dynamo would be seeded sixth, behind the four teams with 9 points and behind the LA Galaxy who also have 7 points but have a +7 goal differential. A lot can happen over the next three days, so we'll revisit this after Thursday night's matches.
Hopefully I didn't confuse you too much.