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Three Things We Learned: Houston Dynamo 2, Portland Timbers 1

“We're not on vacation yet,” where the words of head coach Wilmer Cabrera after the Houston Dynamo’s 2-1 win at the Portland Timbers. The result sees the Dynamo advance to the Western Conference Finals with a ticket to the 2017 MLS Cup Final on the line.

The Dynamo will open the next round of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs against reigning MLS Cup Champions Seattle Sounders FC, with the first leg taking place on November 21 (9 p.m. CT | TICKETS). Here’s what else we learned on Sunday night:

1. Year's work comes to fruition

Exactly one year ago, newly-appointed head coach Wilmer Cabrera and vice president/general manager Matt Jordan embarked on a mission to improve the on-field product and return the Dynamo to its glory days. Today, they are 180 minutes away from a return to MLS Cup and it’s thanks to the entire year's work.

Newcomers like Dylan Remick, Tomás Martínez and Philippe Senderos – along with retaining solid contributors such as Joe Willis, Alex and Mauro Manotas – were key to the team’s second road win of the season. Cabrera’s strategy to rotate the roster also saw the fruits of its labor, particularly with the Saturday’s training injury to DaMarcus Beasley as Remick was able to comfortably slide into the starting XI.

Much has been talked about the road woes this season but the team delivered in the clutch when they needed to. Not a bad place to pick up a road win either.

2. The international break plays a factor

The Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs take a break as FIFA international dates take place over the next two weeks. For the Dynamo, this break carries both benefits and risks.

The immediate benefit is that it gives the players time to rest tired legs. The time may even afford Leonardo, Beasley and Memo Rodriguez time to heal from their respective injuries to return to the lineup.

The flip side of that is that Romell Quioto, Alberth Elis, Boniek García and Adolfo Machado will head out to play for their national teams. The club will hope they can return unscathed and in top form for the series against Seattle.

3. Underestimate this team at your peril

You’ve heard this one before, especially if you go as far back as “Three Things We Learned” from week two. Eight months later, that statement still rings true.

For many around the league, this result comes as a shock. For anyone following the team all season – including the Dynamo fans that made the trip to Providence Park – this result was a clear possibility.

It’s been an up-and-down season with regards to results. but this team has a host players that can hurt you on any given night and will stand toe-to-toe with any team in MLS. With this team playing at their best, there’s no reason for Cabrera and the Dynamo to stop dreaming.