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Dynamo punch ticket to MLS Cup playoffs

A 10-man Houston Dynamo sewed up another spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs with a 1-1 tie against the Kansas City Wizards on Sunday afternoon at Robertson Stadium.

Playing a man down for the majority of the match after forward Cam Weaver was ejected early, the Dynamo took a 1-0 lead in the 26th minute on Luis Angel Landín’s first goal of the season, but the added work of playing a man down led to multiple quality scoring chances for the Wizards in the second half.

Zoltan Hercegfalvi scored the tying goal in the 73rd minute, but the Dynamo earned the point they needed to get them into the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year after moving to Houston from San Jose following the 2005 season. Late in the second half, Claudio Lopez dropped a near-perfect pass from near the center circle over the top of the Dynamo defense. Running onto the ball alone, instead of settling the pass, Zoltan one-timed a shot from 10 yards out that glanced off Houston goalkeeper Pat Onstad and into the net for a 1-1 tie.

The goal came just four minutes after second-half substitute Dominic Oduro missed a wide-open chance to give the Orange a 2-0 lead. Brian Mullan got by the Kansas City defense and setn a pass back to the top of the penalty area, where Oduro was waiting. Oduro rushed his shot and fired high into the stands. The Wizards then converted their next scoring chance on Zoltan’s first-ever MLS score.

In the first 15 minutes of the game, the Wizards carried play and just missed two excellent chances to take the early lead on the road. First, after Josh Wolff settled an awkward cross behind the Houston defense, he skipped a shot just wide and to the left of Onstad. The veteran goalkeeper was lucky again less than 10 minutes later when a former teammate nearly scored the first goal. Claudio Lopez sent a cross into the box to Kei Kamara, the former Dynamo player who was traded for Abe Thompson, and Kamara had a seemingly wide-open net in which to shoot. But Kamara, who scored the only goal of the game in a 1-0 Houston win at K.C. earlier this summer, fired high and saw his shot glance off the crossbar and out of harm’s way.

Four minutes later, the Dynamo went down a man when Weaver was ejected for a two-footed and late tackle from behind on Santiago Hirsig. Referee Jorge Gonzalez made the right call, and the play by Weaver seemed to spark the Wizards, who nearly scored seven minutes after the incident. From 27 yards out, Lopez found space outside the box and nearly beat Onstad with a left-footed rocket, but Onstad dove to his left, got a hand on the ball, and made the save.

Perhaps inspired by keeping the surging Wizards from capitalizing, Mullan and Landín teamed up for a very nice goal as Houston took the lead shorthanded. After slipping a quick pass over to Mullan on the right, Landín sprinted toward the goal and waited for Mullan, who created room after getting Jimmy Conrad out of position. With his left foot, Mullan sent a rolling cross through the box to Landín, who was unmarked at the back post. Landín tapped in past Kevin Hartman from almost on the goal line for a 1-0 lead that stood until K.C. finally broke through on Zoltan’s goal that cost the Dynamo two points in the standings and left them tied with the Los Angeles Galaxy atop the Western Conference standings.

The Dynamo have next weekend off from league play before meeting the Galaxy on Sunday, Oct. 18 at Robertson Stadium in a game that could decide who holds home-field advantage in the Western Conference throughout the postseason. The Wizards, whose playoff hopes are still alive -- though barely -- travel to The Home Depot Center to face Chivas USA next Saturday.

Andrew J. Ferraro is a contributor to MLSnet.com.

Kansas City Wizards (8-11-8) vs. Houston Dynamo (12-8-8)
October 04, 2009 -- Robertson Stadium, Houston TX

Scoring Summary:
HOU -- Luis Angel Landin 1 (Brian Mullan 4) 26
KC -- Zoltan Hercegfalvi 1 (Claudio Lopez 8) 73

Kansas City Wizards -- Kevin Hartman, Jonathan Leathers, Matt Besler (Chance Myers 76), Jimmy Conrad, Michael Harrington (Graham Zusi 23), Davy Arnaud, Jack Jewsbury, Santiago Hirsig, Claudio Lopez, Kei Kamara (Zoltan Hercegfalvi 62), Josh Wolff.
Substitutes Not Used: Boris Pardo, Roger Espinoza, Aaron Hohlbein, Matt Marquess.

Houston Dynamo -- Pat Onstad, Andrew Hainault, Bobby Boswell, Geoff Cameron, Mike Chabala, Brian Mullan (Ryan Cochrane 80), Ricardo Clark, Stuart Holden, Brad Davis (Corey Ashe 69), Luis Angel Landin (Dominic Oduro 63), Cam Weaver.
Substitutes Not Used: Tally Hall, Wade Barrett, Eddie Robinson, Craig Waibel.

Misconduct Summary:
HOU -- Andrew Hainault (caution; Reckless Tackle) 2
HOU -- Cam Weaver (ejection; Serious Foul Play) 17
HOU -- Brian Mullan (caution; Dissent) 18
KC -- Jonathan Leathers (caution; Tactical Foul) 46
KC -- Kei Kamara (caution; Reckless Foul) 49
HOU -- Mike Chabala (caution; Handball) 88

Referee: Jorge Gonzalez
Referee's Assistants: George Gansner; Adam Garner
4th official: Yader Reyes
Attendance: 16,854
Weather: Raining-and-80-degrees

All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial