It wasn’t always pretty, but it sure was effective. And for the second straight year, Houston are in position to end Sporting Kansas City’s season.
Behind a brilliant first-half strike from Adam Moffat and Will Bruin’s third goal of the postseason, Houston extended their unbeaten streak at home to 29 games in all competitions on Sunday afternoon, handing top-seeded Kansas City a 2-0 loss in the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals in front of 20,689 fans at BBVA Compass Stadium.
That’s a familiar score for both camps. It was a repeat of last season’s 2-0 Dynamo victory in the Eastern Conference final at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, where the two teams will wrap up this series on Wednesday (8 pm CT, FOX Sports Houston).
The win also extended Houston’s unbeaten streak against their conference rival to five games over the past year, and put Dominic Kinnear’s side in prime position to earn a second straight trip to the conference finals.
And although the Dynamo looked a tad off the pace in the first quarter of an hour, one moment of magic from Moffat righted the ship and set the tone for a frustrating match for Sporting.
With Kansas City struggling to clear their area following a corner kick in the 18th minute, Seth Sinovic’s clearance fell to Bruin, who nodded the ball into the Scotsman’s path. Moffat took a touch then swiveled and drove his foot through the ball off the bounce, unleashing a technically perfect strike inside the back post that Jimmy Nielsen could only wave at as it whizzed past him.
Sporting Kansas City, meanwhile, struggled with the ball at their feet for most of the first 45 minutes, completing 58 percent of their passes to the Dynamo’s 64 percent. Their best opportunities of the half came through forward C.J. Sapong, who had a goal-bound shot blocked and chased down a poor clearance by Tally Hall before forcing a tight-angle save out of the Houston ‘keeper.
Even though their combination play was lacking, both sides had their fair share of set pieces, with Graham Zusi and fellow set-piece specialist Brad Davis whipping in service. None really threatened either goalkeeper, however, and each side bunkered down into a midfield battle that favored Houston.
Neither manager made a chance until Dominic Kinnear was forced to go to his bench in the 55th minute, when Jermaine Taylor hobbled off with an injury suffered near the end of the first half when his left knee gave after blocking a Zusi drive in the box.
Andre Hainault replaced the Jamaican center back, but his presence was barely needed, as Houston took control of the game and eventually cashed in to score an all-important second goal.
The buildup wasn’t complicated – throw in, cross and finish – as Calen Carr turned Aurelien Collin and sped toward the end line, eventually picking out Bruin for a simple finish inside the six-yard box in the 75th minute. Houston threatened to add a third, but were turned away by a series of miscues and last-ditch defending from the visitors.
The winner of the series will advance to the Eastern Conference finals against either D.C. United or New York.
Houston Dynamo (14-9-11, 2-0-0) vs. Sporting Kansas City (18-7-9, 0-1-0)
MLS Cup playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals – Leg 1
November 4, 2012 – BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, TX
HOU: Adam Moffat 1 (Will Bruin 1) 18
HOU: Will Bruin 3 (Calen Carr 2) 75
Houston Dynamo: Tally Hall; Kofi Sarkodie, Jermaine Taylor (Andre Hainault 55), Bobby Boswell, Corey Ashe; Boniek Garcia, Adam Moffat, Ricardo Clark, Brad Davis; Calen Carr (Brian Ching 81), Will Bruin (Cam Weaver 84)
Substitutes not used: Tyler Deric, Luiz Camargo, Giles Barnes, Macoumba Kandji
Sporting Kansas City: Jimmy Nielsen; Chance Myers, Matt Besler, Aurelien Collin, Seth Sinovic; Graham Zusi, Julio Cesar, Roger Espinoza; Jacob Peterson, C.J. Sapong, Kei Kamara
Substitutes not used: Eric Kronberg, Michael Harrington, Lawrence Olum, Oriol Russel
HOU: Calen Carr (caution) 27
SKC: Kei Kamara (caution) 42
HOU: Kofi Sarkodie (caution) 73
Referee: Edvin Jurisevic
Referee's Assistants: Chris Strickland, Adam Garner
4th Official: Fotis Bazakos