In their fourth playoff game in 12 days, the Houston Dynamo saved their best for last.
Down 1-0 after 45 minutes of soccer on Sunday, the Dynamo came out of the locker room and proceeded to turn the score line on its head with three well-crafted goals to seal a 3-1 win over D.C. United in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Finals.
“We’ve had a lot good halves of soccer in the playoffs this year but that was a really good half,” said striker Will Bruin who scored his seventh career goal against D.C. in six matches. “Not just because we got the three goals, but considering how tired we were and that it was the last half of a four-game streak. That was a really good half physically and mentally.”
Houston was the dominant team in the second half after a first 45 minutes when they were behind the ball more than they wanted to be and were not linking up in the final third like they had previously this postseason.
But instead of give a motivational speech. head coach Dominic Kinnear decided simply to tell his experienced group to keep attacking and make the most of the 135 minutes they had left, including the 90-minute series finale next Sunday at RFK Stadium in Washington.
“There was no yelling and no heads down,” Kinnear said. “These guys have been here before. I’m sure they were a little bit upset being behind at halftime but by no means was it that we were really, really frustrated.”
His troops responded with a 4-3-3 format to optimize their personnel and to take control of the match. Exploiting the flanks and pressuring, Houston were on the front foot and made the most of it with Andre Hainault, Bruin and Kofi Sarkodie notching second half goals.
Now the club is headed into the second leg of a series with a two-goal cushion for the second straight time thanks to their calm, well-crafted second half.
“We came in, didn’t panic or anything, and we just talked about it and we went out and they got a little tired and we got all over them,” defender Bobby Boswell said. “That was a man’s win.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.