The Houston Dynamo are in the MLS Cup playoffs.
Even at a goal apiece 70 minutes in, the Dynamo used some late game magic from Boniek García and a Brad Davis penalty kick to clinch a 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union. The late strikes came just minutes before D.C. United’s Lewis Neal scored a stoppage-time winner to down the Columbus Crew 3-2 and book playoff passage for Houston for the sixth time in seven years.
With the three points, Houston pulled to within one point of the New York Red Bulls for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
The late goals helped turn around a match that took a tough turn in the 19th minute.
Houston got off to a flying start in the match and created three good chances in the first five minutes, the last of which gave Houston an early lead.
After Bobby Boswell and García headed early chances wide, Macoumba Kandji turned an opportunity into a goal after he stripped Carlos Valdés of the ball. With the Union captain standing in pain, Kandji raced in on goal and broke the ice with a calm, placed finish.
The Senegalese forward could not duplicate that feat four minutes later, missing the first of two opportunities inside the 6-yard box.
After Houston continued to push the pace, the Union got a glimpse of space and took advantage in the 19th minute when Jack McInerney spoiled Houston’s early work. Sheanon Williams capped an overlapping run with an early ball that found the second-year forward slipping between the Dynamo defense to head home his eighth goal of 2012.
After things stayed fairly even in the early goings of the second half, García’s goal broke things open on a textbook counterattack.
Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall started a drive right up the spine, setting Davis off up the middle. The left-footer fed second-half sub Brian Ching, who led the break and picked out García on his left. After cutting in on his favored right foot, García hit a curling shot to the near post that MacMath could only get a hand on and deflect into the roof of the net for the 71st minute game-winner.
Four minutes later Davis removed all doubt.
After Will Bruin was taken down by Valdés in the box, Davis stepped up to slot home the resulting penalty to MacMath’s right to seal the deal and put Houston in the playoffs.
Houston, who became the fourth team in history to finish the regular season undefeated at home, returns to CONCACAF Champions League play Tuesday night against Honduran outfit Olimpia needing a win or a tie to advance before traveling to Colorado to face the Rapids next Saturday. The Union could help Houston’s playoff seeding next week as they host the Red Bulls just hours before the Dynamo take the field at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
Houston Dynamo (14-8-11) vs. Philadelphia Union (10-16-6)
October 20, 2012 – BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston
Attendance: 22,039 (sellout)
HOU: Macoumba Kandji 4 (Adam Moffat 3) 5
PHI: Jack McInerney 8 (Sheanon Williams 2) 19
HOU: Boniek Garcia 4 (Brian Ching 5) 71
HOU: Brad Davis 8 (penalty) 75
Houston Dynamo: Tally Hall; Kofi Sarkodie, Bobby Boswell, Jermaine Taylor, Corey Ashe; Boniek Garcia, Ricardo Clark, Adam Moffat (Giles Barnes 56), Brad Davis (Warren Creavalle 85); Calen Carr, Will Bruin, Macoumba Kandji (Brian Ching 67)
Substitutes not used: Tyler Deric, Andre Hainault, Cam Weaver, Calen Carr
Philadelphia Union: Zac MacMath; Raymon Gaddis, Amobi Okugo, Carlos Valdes, Sheanon Williams (Antoine Hoppenot 64); Danny Cruz (Roger Torres 78), Brian Carroll, Michael Lahoud, Michael Farfan; Freddy Adu (Gabriel Gomez 58), Jack McInerney
Substitues not used: Chris Konopka, Christian Hernandez, Chandler Hoffman, Greg Jordan
PHI: Jack McInerney (caution) 67
Referee: Mark Geiger
Referee's Assistants: Greg Barkey, Adam Garner
4th Official: Ismael Elfath