On Halloween night the Houston Dynamo went to Toyota Park dressed as the playoff team many around MLS have grown to know.
In a do-or-die situation, the Dynamo played a winning, team brand of soccer highlighted by a Will Bruin brace to down the host Chicago Fire 2-1 and move on to the Eastern Conference semifinals against Sporting Kansas City.
From goalkeeper Tally Hall in the back to Bruin up top, the Dynamo were in lockstep for a majority of the night. They were rarely caught out of position and played the type of calm, experienced team soccer needed to succeed on the road in the playoffs.
"It was a great win. We came to a tough place and got a great result," head coach Dominic Kinnear told MLSsoccer.com by phone. "I thought it was a good road win and a good 90 minutes from us."
Bruin's brace was the reward for a Dynamo squad that held the game in their hand for much of the night, showing how their playoff experience could pay off. The hard working second-year striker notched the winner cashing in on some excellent work by Calen Carr and Ricardo Clark to seal the victory in the first minute of the second half.
But it was Bruin's opening shot in the 12th minute on a free header that set the tone for Houston in the match.
WATCH: Kinnear, Bruin react to KO victory
"I think especially in the first half, that was the best we've played in a while," the Dynamo boss remarked. "Good movement off the ball, creating chances and defending very well.
"We came out in the second half and got off to a great start. Obviously you know Chicago's going to make a push which they did and Tally [Hall] made some big saves and defended pretty well."
With Chicago pushing, Houston responded by keeping their composure beginning with the forwards applying pressure, to Clark controlling the midfield - Kinnear singled out his impact on the game with his work rate - and then a back line that, with some heroics from Hall, answered the call late when Chicago desperately tried to save their season.
"At the end of the game they're flooding the midfield and throwing guys forward, so you're outnumbered in there at times," Kinnear said. "They were probably good for a goal with the chances they created and I thought we defended well and were good for a couple of goals so I thought in the end the result was very fair."
It's a result that sets up the first playoff game hosted at BBVA Compass Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.