Top 10 games of 2012 - #6 - Dynamo vs. Philadelphia Union

Dynamo seal playoff berth, unbeaten home season on dramatic night in East playoff race

HoustonDynamo.com will continue to count down the ten best Dynamo games of 2012 through Friday, Dec. 21. With so many great games to choose from, it was difficult to settle on ten, and tougher still to decide how to rank them. We will unveil one game per day, with a look back at what made the game special and include game highlights. Here is #6:

Dynamo 3 : 1 Philadelphia Union

October 20, 2012 - BBVA Compass Stadium

It was the most exciting night of the Major League Soccer season. In the span of less than an hour, the top six teams in the Eastern Conference standings all kicked off on the penultimate weekend of the regular season. The Dynamo were seeking a playoff berth for the sixth time in seven seasons and looking to complete the fourth unbeaten home season in league history.

It was Saturday, Oct. 20, and starting with a 5:07 p.m. CT kickoff between the New York Red Bulls (53 points) and Sporting Kansas City (59 points), followed by D.C. United (54 points) hosting the Columbus Crew (49 points) and the Chicago Fire (56 points) visiting the New England Revolution at 5:37 p.m., the Dynamo (50 points) would welcome the Philadelphia Union, with kickoff just 15 minutes later.

It meant that the five Eastern Conference playoff teams could be finalized on the night, and there could be some major movement in the standings. New York and Kansas City played to a 0-0 draw and the Fire were upset, 1-0, at New England. For the Dynamo, however, the game with the most direct impact on their own playoff hopes involved the Crew.

Columbus, just a point behind the Dynamo at the start of the day, appeared on their way to a possible road upset of D.C. United, where the hosts had not lost a game since March. Columbus took a 1-0 lead in the seventh minute, and made it 2-1 in the 41st minute, just two minutes after United equalized.

But United fought back with an equalizer from Marcelo Saragosa in the 59th minute and reached dreamland in the first minute of second half stoppage time as Lewis Neal scored for a 3-2 United win.

See #7 on our list of the Top 10 Dynamo games of 2012 - Dynamo vs. Montreal Impact

Neal’s goal at RFK Stadium in Washington arrived just a few minutes after Boniek Garcia delivered a 2-1 lead for the Dynamo against the Union. The fate of the final place in the Eastern Conference playoffs shifted drastically in that five-minute span. The Crew, which would have remained in contention for the final playoff spot with a draw, were suddenly on the brink of elimination, and Houston had a lead at home and was twenty minutes from securing a playoff spot and an undefeated home season.

The dramatic October night – No. 6 on our countdown of the Top 10 Dynamo games of 2012 – began in grand fashion for Houston. After just five minutes, the Dynamo led 1-0 through a goal from Macoumba Kandji.

Adam Moffat lofted a bouncing ball forward from midfield, and before Union defender Carlos Valdes could send it away, Kandji blocked his clearance and raced into the box before slotting home his fourth goal of the season. Kandji’s goal arrived just moments after Columbus took a 1-0 lead in D.C., easing any early pressure on the fifth-place Dynamo.

13 minutes after Houston’s opener, the Union would equalize. Philadelphia’s red hot striker, Jack McInerney, scored his fourth goal in as many games, taking a seemingly innocuous cross from Union defender Sheanon Williams and lofting a header from the penalty spot into the net.

For the moment, the Dynamo were tied and the Crew were still leading in Washington, and if results held, Columbus would overtake the Dynamo for fifth place in the East with one week remaining.

Seven minutes before halftime, Kandji had a great opportunity for a second goal. Brad Davis drive a pass across the six-yard box that Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath was unable to punch away. Kandji had to deal with a tough short-hop and was unable to steer his shot into an empty net.

Four minutes after the break, Houston nearly scored again. Garcia’s shot from 12 yards was blocked by MacMath’s foot before Kandji fired a rebound that was also saved by the Union goalkeeper.

Davis came even closer for Houston in the 66th minute. He received a perfectly threaded pass from Ricardo Clark and barreled into the box past a pair of Philadelphia defenders. His shot from 12 yards was headed toward the far upper corner but bounced off the post.

The Dynamo finally found their game-winner four minutes later. The sequence began with goalkeeper Tally Hall alertly rolling the ball from the top of his box – through a crowd – to the feet of Davis, who played a first-touch pass between two defenders to Brian Ching.

Ching received the pass at the center circle and carried it forward 40 yards, waiting paitently for runs to develop. He found Garcia to his left 25 yards from goal, and the Honduran took a touch inside to elude his defender before cracking a shot that MacMath could only get a hand on before it hit the net.

It was a brilliantly executed counter attack, beginning with Hall’s bold pass through traffic, to Davis’ awareness to find Ching with his first touch, continued with Ching’s patience and wise pass to Garca, who completed the move with a veteran's deadly instinct for goal.

The entire sequence – from the top of the Houston penalty area to the Union net – involved four players and lasted just 11 seconds. In the blink of an eye, the Dynamo had perhaps their most important goal of the regular season.

See #8 on our list of the Top 10 Dynamo games of 2012 - Dynamo vs. FC Dallas

The Dynamo would put the game away just two minutes later. Ching lofted a great pass over the top of the Philadelphia defense and Will Bruin earned a penalty when he was take down by Valdes.

Davis converted the penalty and the Dynamo could see the playoffs in clear view and a perfect home season was just 15 minutes from completion.

Houston closed out the 3-1 win in front of a raucous sellout crowd, with Neal’s game-winner for United in Washington coming minutes before the final whistle at BBVA Compass Stadium. As the orange celebrated the unbeaten home season, they knew of the Crew defeat, which ensured they were playoff bound.   

HIGHLIGHTS:

Return to HoustonDynamo.com on Monday for Game #5 on our list of the Top 10 Dynamo games of 2012.