HOUSTON – It is playoff time in Houston and the Dynamo showed just what that means Thursday night, cruising to a 3-0 victory over the Montreal Impact to claim the Eastern Conference Knockout Round game and move on to another grudge match with the New York Red Bulls (Sunday, 2:30 p.m.; TICKETS).
As if the regular season never happened, Houston picked up right where they left off in 2012’s playoffs. The Dynamo ramped up the energy and strung together passes to go with a finishing clinic from Will Bruin, who scored twice, and a penalty kick strike from Boniek García to do in a struggling Impact side that finished the match with eight men.
Bruin first showed his finishing skill by picking up the ball and playing it to Ricardo Clark at the top of the box. In traffic, Clark turned a snazzy back heel to put Bruin in and the 6-foot-2 forward made no mistake with the first touch and ensuing finish. Bruin hit his shot to the far side, around goalkeeper Troy Perkins to give Houston a 1-0 lead in the 16th minute.
Just 11 minutes later Garcia effectively buried the Impact. After picking the pocket of Hassoun Camara, Garcia took on three defenders and a charging Hernan Bernardello came crashing in to bring him down in the box for a clear penalty kick. After a talk with Brad Davis, Garcia stepped up and drilled the spot kick home for a commanding 2-0 lead.
After Nelson Rivas was shown a second yellow for an elbow on Bruin in the second half, the forward completed his second career playoff brace in the 71st minute. Corey Ashe hit a ball over the top to Bruin, who took a touch and outpaced Mateo Ferrari for the ball. He then added a touch to beat Perkins before firing home from the top of the box to finalize the 3-0 romp. Bruin now has six playoff goals, just one behind the Dynamo record of seven by Brian Ching.
While the Dynamo were dominating much of the run of play, Montreal was struggling to create as their route-one approach to hit 20-goal scorer Marco Di Vaio was snuffed out by an active Dynamo defender or the forward playing himself offside.
Di Vaio managed to come up with a pair of half-chances in the game but Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall was up to the task each time, including on a play in the 61st minute. Warren Creavalle hit a panicked ball that found its way to Di Vaio 30 yards from goal and the skilled striker could only look on in frustration as his ensuing blistering shot was parried by a diving Hall to preserve the cleansheet and two-goal lead at the time.
Montreal finished the game with the wrong kind of fight, as Andres Romero kicked out at Kofi Sarkodie in the final moments to prompt a scrum and a battle between Di Vaio and Corey Ashe. Romero was red carded and and so was Di Vaio for putting his hands in Ashe’s face during the fracas.
Houston will be back at BBVA Compass Stadium Sunday to host the first leg of their Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Red Bulls, who beat the Dynamo in all three of their regular season meetings, including two in Houston, this year.
Houston Dynamo (No. 4 seed) vs. Montreal Impact (No. 5 seed)
MLS Cup Playoffs – Eastern Conference Knockout Round
October 31, 2013 – BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, TX
Houston Dynamo: Will Bruin 1 (Ricardo Clark) 16
Houston Dynamo: Boniek Garcia 1 (penalty kick) 27
Houston Dynamo: Will Bruin 2 (Corey Ashe 1) 72
Houston Dynamo: Tally Hall; Kofi Sarkodie, Bobby Boswell, Eric Brunner, Corey Ashe; Boniek Garcia, Warren Creavalle, Ricardo Clark, Brad Davis (Andrew Driver 82); Giles Barnes (Omar Cummings 79), Will Bruin (Cam Weaver 79)
Unused substitutes: Tyler Deric, Mike Chabala, Alexander Lopez, Servando Carrasco
Montreal Impact: Troy Perkins; Jeb Brovsky, Nelson Rivas, Matteo Ferrari, Hassoun Camara; Justin Mapp, Hernan Bernardello, Collen Warner (Felipe Martins 62), Andrea Pisanu (Andres Romero 55); Andrew Wenger (Daniele Paponi 62), Marco Di Vaio
Unused substitutes: Evan Bush, Wandrille Lefevre, Patrice Bernier, Davy Arnaud
MTL: Nelson Rivas (caution) 35
MTL: Nelson Rivas (second caution; ejection) 70
MTL: Andres Romero (ejection) 89
MTL: Marco Di Vaio (ejection) 89
HOU: Corey Ashe (caution) 89
Referee: Mark Geiger
Referees’ Assistants: C.J. Morgante, Brian Dunn
4th Official: Armando Villareal