The Houston Dynamo moved into second place in the Eastern Conference and opened up a six-point gap in the race for a playoff spot with a 2-0 road win over the Portland Timbers Friday night at a sold-out JELD-WEN Field. Although Houston cannot mathematically clinch a playoff spot this weekend, the Dynamo now lead Portland by six points and D.C. United by eight points as Houston tries to reach the postseason for the fifth time in the club’s six-year history.
Now unbeaten in its last five games (3-0-2), Houston will host the Supporters’ Shield champion LA Galaxy on Sunday, October 23, at Robertson Stadium in the final game of the MLS regular season.
Friday’s win was the Dynamo’s second straight on the road, coming on the heels of Houston’s 1-0 win at Dallas on September 24. The consecutive road wins are Houston’s first since June 5-13, 2009. The Dynamo have now recorded shutouts in back-to-back road games for the first time since posting three straight road shutouts June 21-July 23, 2008.
With the win, Houston swept the season series from the expansion Timbers, coached by former Houston assistant John Spencer. The Dynamo won the teams’ first meeting, on August 14, by a 2-1 score. The game marked the third time this season Houston scored two goals in a road game; the Dynamo tied D.C. United 2-2 on June 25 and Columbus 2-2 on September 14.
The Dynamo improved to 11-9-13, reaching two games over .500 for the first time since they were 3-1-3 on April 29.
In Friday night’s game, Houston controlled possession in the first half and broke through from a free kick in the 36th minute. Midfielder Brad Davis bent in a cross from the left, and defender Andre Hainault headed it inside the near post to give Houston the lead. The goal was Hainault’s first of the season and came almost exactly one year after Hainault’s last goal, a header from a corner kick in a 1-0 road win over San Jose on October 16, 2010. For Davis, the assist was the 15th of the season for the MVP candidate, tying him for the league lead. It was also his 70th career assist for the Dynamo in all competitions.
The Dynamo made it 2-0 and quieted the sellout crowd in the 59th minute when midfielder Danny Cruz, making his 12th start of the season, cut in from the right and floated a left-footed shot into the top left corner. It was Cruz’s second goal of the season and first since July 9, and the strike was later highlighted as the No. 8 play of the night on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
Midfielder Luiz Camargo, who helped the Dynamo control the middle of the field throughout the game, was credited with his second assist on Cruz’s goal. The Dynamo are unbeaten in Camargo’s five starts.
With his opening goal, defender Andre Hainault became the 16th different Dynamo player to score in MLS play this season; Houston has used 25 field players in MLS action.
Goalkeeper Tally Hall was credited with four saves for his sixth shutout of the season and also made a crucial play in the 64th minute, diving at the base of the back post to knock away a cross that had deflected off a Dynamo player in the box.
Houston defender Geoff Cameron made his fifth consecutive start and sixth of the season in central defense. It was the versatile Cameron’s 100th career MLS game, coming in his fourth season. A third-round draft pick in 2008, the 26-year-old is the seventh player in Dynamo history to play 100 MLS games for the club.
Rookie forward Will Bruin came on as a substitute in the 81st minute to make his 24th MLS appearance of the season, setting a new club rookie record. Bruin had been tied with Geoff Cameron, who appeared in 23 of 30 games in 2008.
Goalkeeper Tally Hall tied an MLS record with his 33rd start of the season and is now tied for the league’s single-season record with 2,970 minutes played, sharing the league lead with Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens. Three other players, including two goalkeepers, have a chance to play every minute this season. The 2011 MLS regular season consists of 34 games per team for the first time in league history.
In other milestones, midfielder Brad Davis played in his 255th career MLS game, defender Corey Ashe made his 165th appearance for the Dynamo in all competitions and the 75th start of his MLS career, and defender Andre Hainault also made his 75th career MLS start.
Reserve League Match: Houston Dynamo Reserves at Sporting Kansas City Reserves, Tuesday, October 18, 10 a.m., Swope Park training center, Kansas City, MO
Next Match: Sunday, October 23, 6 p.m., Dynamo vs. LA Galaxy, Robertson Stadium
Head Coach Dominic Kinnear
On 2-0 result: "It was a bit of a grind out there. There weren't many chances either way, so I'm obviously extremely happy with the win and the way the guys fought. This is a tough place to play, especially in the second half they were chucking balls forward like crazy and bringing some pressure, but I think Tally (Hall) and the back four did a great job of not giving too many chances away. Our goals were good goals, and it was enough for us to get the win tonight."
On Cruz's strike: "It was a great goal tucked inside. I don't know how far out it was, but it was perfect, and I'm happy for Danny. It's definitely one of the good goals we've had this year."
On ties to Portland head coach John Spencer: "Tonight, with what was at stake, obviously John and I are great friends and remain great friends, but heading into this game once the whistle blows, it's an opposing head coach that you know very well. But we're both competitors, and we want the same thing. I know the ideas he has in the game; it makes it easier for him to look at us because he knows the players. I think as far as a game this late in the season, there aren't a ton of secrets out there, so knowing John I knew one thing for sure: They were going to come out and make it tough for us."
On the atmosphere at JELD-WEN Field: "I love it; it's fantastic. It's a testament to Portland: When you talk about atmospheres in the MLS, it's very tough to beat. The fans should be proud of what they've done this year so far, and the team should be proud; I think it's a good team. It's a great place to play. It may be intimidating, but I think the players enjoy games like this, because it's great to play in front of fans like this.”
Goalkeeper Tally Hall
On the result: "It's a huge result for us. Hats off to the team, the defenders especially. I felt like Portland put a lot of service into the box and whipped in good balls, and I thought our team fought very well to keep good position. It's both ends of the field: us finishing chances that we get and the guys fighting hard I thought. It was one of the hardest-fought matches that we've played, and we came out on top, so it's a good feeling."
On the playoff race: "We've definitely felt the playoff race. We've known for long that we need results to get in to the playoffs, so the guys have stepped up. Again, hats off to the boys. I can't say anything else other than they've stepped up, they've done their job, and put us in a great spot."
On the atmosphere at JELD-WEN Field: "Top-notch. The stands were all sold out and singing the whole time -- it makes it difficult to communicate. It's a fun area to come to. Obviously for me, it's a bit like coming home, so I've definitely enjoyed the trip."
Midfielder Adam Moffat
On the result: "It's great to get that win. We knew it was a huge game beforehand, and our last game was two weeks ago, so we've been preparing. Our training's been good, and we wanted to get into the best position possible to get in to the playoffs, so it's a huge three points for us."
On extra emotions coming back to Portland: "There always is going against your old team. Obviously the guys out there I'm good friends with, but you want to do well. You want to show them what they're missing, and obviously the win is the most important thing, so I'm glad we could get that, but it's been a really good year here, so I'd like (Portland) to do well."