It’s been a long time since Dwayne De Rosario made the Houston Dynamo a team that Canadian fans loved to watch. But the Dynamo might just be recreating their glory days.
Houston are headed back to the Western Conference final after outlasting Sporting Kansas City 1-0 on Sunday night. Franco Esobar’s late first-half header off a corner kick was all Houston needed in the end.
The first half saw chances for both teams, but it was Escobar who broke the deadlock in the 39th minute. Hector Herrera’s corner kick from the right was met by Escobar, who outmaneuvered Jacob Davis to head the ball past goalkeeper Tim Melia.
It was Escobar’s fourth career playoff goal and it buried SKC, putting Houston into their first conference final since their last postseason appearance in 2017, back when Toronto FC won it all.
Sporting Kansas City believed they should have been awarded a penalty just two minutes after falling behind. Houston goalkeeper Steve Clark blocked Alan Pulido’s initial shot, but the rebound fell to Daniel Salloi, whose shot seemed to hit Erik Sviatchenko’s arm on the goal line. Video assistant referee Carol Anne Chenard reviewed the play but did not refer it to referee Guido Gonzalez Jr. to have a look at the monitor.
Houston had a golden opportunity to extend their lead in the 64th minute, but Melia managed to dispossess Corey Baird who was through on goal. Clark then made a superb save to deny Salloi’s powerful half-volley five minutes later.
As Kansas City pushed for an equalizer, Houston looked more likely to score, with Melia making another impressive save in stoppage time from substitute Aliyu Ibrahim.
Houston goalkeeper Steve Clark managed to maintain a clean sheet for the first time this postseason after Houston had let in a goal in each of their three Round One series games against Real Salt Lake. And, made an fantastic save just before the 70th minute mark to keep the Dynamo on top.
Clark also has a phenomenal mullet, something that MLS’ elite scribes couldn’t ignore on Sunday.
Sporting Kansas City exits the postseason after a successful first-round series that saw SKC shock top-seeded St. Louis CITY, after a penalty shootout victory over the San Jose Earthquakes in the Western Conference wild-card game just to get into the playoffs.
At the start of the season, it looked like Sporting Kansas City would not only have the worst MLS record come season’s end, but also be one of the worst MLS teams of all time. Nope. Toronto FC wanted that title.
Sporting KC didn’t win any of their first 10 league matches. They’re the first team to ever do that and still qualify for the MLS Playoffs. So, there’s a goal for TFC next season if they struggle out of the gates, again.
The fourth-seeded Dynamo will now face the winner of Sunday’s late match between the second-ranked Seattle Sounders and CanMNT goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau’s LAFC.