For all the talk about the playoff format and home field advantage, one thing is sure in 2012: It has been a tough road for the Houston Dynamo.
But there they stood in the baggage claim of Bush Intercontinental Airport on Monday morning for the second year in a row, Eastern Conference trophy in hand and answering questions about another MLS Cup final versus the LA Galaxy at The Home Depot Center.
“Looking back at the playoffs so far it would be difficult to imagine a more difficult road to the Cup final,” goalkeeper Tally Hall said. “It’s been a steep uphill climb from the get-go.”
That uphill climb consisted of five games in 19 days, including road games in Chicago, Kansas City and Washington, D.C. But Houston – who won just three of 17 games on the road this season – won the game they absolutely had to in order to get their latest playoff run going.
Houston made a statement against the Chicago Fire in the postseason opener on Oct. 31, bossing a Fire squad in a 2-1 win with the type of professional performance that would define their Eastern Conference playoff run.
“It starts with the first game, that first game gave us a lot of confidence,” head coach Dominic Kinnear told MLSsoccer.com. “The Chicago game, to get through that to play at home, it was a big boost for us.”
Said Hall: “At their home, to come out with a win it was like, ‘Alright, we can do something special.”
Hall and the Dynamo’s intuition was right, and now the Dynamo are headed back to an MLS Cup final that will culminate in the same place last year’s did: The Home Depot Center, facing the Galaxy.
“Last year was last year,” Hall said. “I wish things would’ve gone differently but they didn’t, so we move on to this year. We’ll keep giving everything we’ve got this year until December 2nd, and then we look on to 2013. For me it’s not a matter of looking back. We’re not the redeem team.”
The Dynamo will take a brief rest before resuming action in Houston this week.
“Five games in 19 days, I don’t care how you slice it, it’s tough,” Kinnear said. “I think it’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy it. We do know we have another game to go and we’ll do everything we can to get the guys prepared for it.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.