Skip to content

Drilling down on: Houston Dynamo 1, at D.C. United 1

Nov 18, 2012, 7:05 PM EDT

Houston Dynamo v DC United - Eastern Conference Championship - Leg 2 Getty Images

No one does the playoffs like Houston – and they are going back to MLS Cup. Again.

This will be Houston’s fourth trip in seven seasons.

Dominic Kinnear’s team held a semi-cushy two-goal lead heading into RFK Stadium, and Oscar Boniek Garcia’s first-half goal turned a hill into a mountain for a young D.C. United team with good days apparently ahead.

For now, it’s Houston’s day to celebrate.

Kinnear’s men in orange had the right plan and the right players to professionally manage out a 1-1 draw, earning them a 4-2 win on total goals aggregate after Sunday’s Eastern Conference final at RFK Stadium.

Man of the Match:

The visitors had sterling performance all over the field, and most certainly all along the back five (the back four, plus goalkeeper Tally Hall, who never had a foot or a glove out of place. But veteran center back Bobby Boswell, who started his career at RFK with United, was a picture of calm command back there. He won headers, poked balls away, kept from being dragged out wide and even got a little tough when the situation called for it. For 75 minutes, United had done little to both Hall, and Boswell was a major reason why.

Threesome of knowledge: What we learned

Houston had the perfect plan, executed flawlessly:

Talk about a calm, disciplined and professional performance.

Dominic Kinnear did it again. The master of manufacturing playoff results got a little help when his top pair of central midfielders, Adam Moffat and Ricardo Clark, were adjudged healthy enough to start.

So he lined up the team in a 4-5-1, pushing Brad Davis and Clark up higher in the middle, allowing Moffat to sweep up behind them. They did concede some possession, but that was built into the scheme, and the men in orange more or less had things in control all along.

That’s because they were able to get just enough offensive push up the flanks through Mac Kandji and Garcia to create some opportunities. Meanwhile, Davis helped keep enough midfielder possession, while Clark covered his ground and Moffat kept that critical positional discipline.

Meanwhile, United choice to go with two defensive midfielders once again looked iffy; sure enough, Marcelo Saragosa, redundant alongside Perry Kitchen, was removed at halftime.

So all that DC United possession led to … precious little for the home side, which was missing too much offensive energy without a fully fit Dwayne De Rosario and without left-sided dynamo Chris Pontius.

United had just one shot on target – just one! – in the first 60 minutes. And Ben Olsen’s side had no corner kicks for almost 60 minutes through the middle of the match, from the 12th until the 68th.

For Houston, there was never a moment of defensive panic, and the Dynamo didn’t make the same mistake it made two weeks ago in a second-leg escape from Kansas City, where they sat back too far and absorbed too much pressure.

Not this time. This was under control all the way. In fact, if the Dynamo did one thing wrong, it was a failure to cinch this series off sooner. Will Bruin, Davis and Kandji wasted beautiful second-half chances on the counter attack.

DCU defense just not good enough:

From United’s side, the series wasn’t lost Sunday; it was dropped a week ago in Houston, when the Dynamo built a brick house of confidence while stacking up three goals.

All year, United’s weak link was along the back, where a collection of adequate defenders (but no commanding ones) gave up 43 goals this year. Defensive mistakes were abundant in last week’s loss at Houston.

And there were the pimples again on Sunday when Brad Davis shot through United back line along the right, while United midfielder Nick DeLeon and DCU’s center backs lost track of Oscar Boniek Garcia in the middle. Goal! And that was pretty much it.

That first-half heartbreaker sucked the life right out of Sunday’s big crowd at RFK, a gut punch from which a deflated United simply could not rally past.

In the bigger picture, United management was overly smitten with attacking DPs. And given the chance to trade late in the season, they picked up … Lionard Pajoy, another striker.

Meanwhile, Olsen had to arrange a system with two holding midfielders to present the back line with sufficient protection. That did get United into the playoffs, but it wasn’t the ticket for breaking all the way through.

United conceded five goals in four playoff games; Houston conceded four in five games, and they’ll go to MLS Cup once again as a result.

Houston’s main men delivered, a couple from the home team did not:

Davis is Houston’s most creative player, which may not be saying much on a meat-and-potatoes side like Houston’s.

But he did create a meaningful moment, and that’s the point. Meanwhile, Hall, Boswell and Jermaine Taylor all had afternoons that deserve long, slow applause. The other Dynamo men were sturdy as battleships.

But “sturdy” isn’t always enough to drive into an MLS Cup; it takes decisive moments from the difference makers.  And that’s where the comparison moves to United’s side, a ledger of lesser. Because United desperately needed one man in particular to deliver: Branko Boskovic.

Originally brought as a Designated Player, he was ostensibly the playmaker to open gaps in defenses around RFK. His struggles have been well documented – but what a moment this would have been for the veteran midfielder to re-write the narrative!

Instead, we saw a quiet symphony of lateral and negative passes. We saw Boskovic defer to teammates time and again. It really was a stark contrast to the way De Rosario made his emotional comeback and immediately enlivened the attack. He actually got balls into the penalty area. He pushed the attack. He finally helped make Houston’s center backs look less comfortable.

Boskovic did finally slice through the Dynamo defense. But where was that earlier? The home team needed that kind of attacking push out of the midfield from the first minute, not just in the 83rd.

Then again, at least he got the start. Hamdi Salihi, another failed DP around RFK, couldn’t he get that. He did get in late, but never did a thing to rattle Hall in Houston’s goal.

Packaged for take-away:

  • Following up on the last point,  Salihi came into Sunday’s contest with just one minute in the playoffs so far. Yikes.
  • The save of the match came from Hall, who pushed away Chris Korb’s perfectly struck, wildly knuckling half-volley in the first half.
  • Houston’s Clark will finally get to play in an MLS Cup; He missed two for Houston due to suspension.

ProSoccerTalk will keep up the discussion of the chase for MLS Cup through the Dec. 1 final.

Latest Posts
  1. EURO 2016 qualifying roundup: Germany downs Poland, Keane sets records for Ireland

    Sep 4, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwixmde5zjc2mta3nmi0yta0zmmwngnmothlmmzhntnh AP

    Mario Gotze’s brace led Germany to a big win at home, while Robbie Keane became the all-time leading goalscorer in EURO qualifying history.

  2. Manchester United calls Real Madrid’s handling of De Gea transfer “clumsy”

    Sep 4, 2015, 4:04 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwnjytliymewnjuzzwnjogm3mjrmytc1nzawmja3ytu3 AP

    The transfer window may have closed, but the war of words between Manchester United and Real Madrid is still going strong.

  3. Bournemouth’s record-signing Tyrone Mings ruled out for rest of season with knee injury

    Sep 4, 2015, 3:10 PM EDT

    Bournemouth v Philadelphia Union Getty Images

    A massive loss for the Cherries as Tyrone Mings’ season is over after tearing his ACL and MCL against Leicester City.

  4. WATCH: On Japan duty, Shinji Kagawa flubs a sitter of the most comfortable variety

    Sep 4, 2015, 2:11 PM EDT

    Cambodia's goalkeeper Sou Yaty falls on the ground upon getting a goal by Japan's Shinji Kagawa (10), top second right, as Japan's Yoshinori Muto (14), Cambodia's Say Piseth (4) and others look back during their second round soccer match of regional qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup in Saitama, north of Tokyo Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. Japan defeated Cambodia 3-0 to secure its first win of World Cup qualifying. (Tsuyoshi Ueda/Kyodo News via AP) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT AP

    We need a bigger term than sitter for this Japan miss. Sofa? Futon? Beanbag chair?

  5. With two friendlies before the Confederations Cup playoff, who should be the USMNT’s center back pair?

    Sep 4, 2015, 1:09 PM EDT

    FILE - In this Nov. 19, 2013 file photo, the United States national soccer team poses prior to the start their friendly soccer match between Austria and the United States in Vienna, Austria. Background from left: Omar Gonzalez, Tim Howard, Geoff Cameron, John Brooks, Michael Bradley and Brek Shea. Foreground from left: Jermaine Jones, DaMarcus Beasley, Alejandro Bedoya, Aron Johannsson and Jozy Altidore.  (AP Photo/Hans Punz, File) AP

    The USMNT’s Tinkerman takes a lot of risks with his formation and use of his best players (See: Bradley, Michael), but there is at least one area where we just don’t get it: center backs.

  6. PHOTO: Can this cigarette disposal unit end the Messi vs. Ronaldo debate (at least in London)?

    Sep 4, 2015, 11:24 AM EDT

    CNaarYiWoAAxXqT

    Who knew we could’ve settled this whole thing ages ago, just by asking smokers in England?

  7. CONCACAF World Cup qualifying preview: Canada, Jamaica hope to avoid upsets; USMNT to learn group mates

    Sep 4, 2015, 10:40 AM EDT

    HOUSTON, TX - JULY 11:  Cyle Larin #21 of Canada avoids pressure from Jermaine Taylor #21 of Jamaica and Je-Vaughan Watson #15 at BBVA Compass Stadium on July 11, 2015 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The Yanks will face the winners of two two-legged ties: Saint Vincent and the Grenadines vs. Aruba, and Antigua and Barbuda vs. Guatemala.

  8. WATCH: New Spurs forward Son’s hat trick helps South Korea let loose on Laos

    Sep 4, 2015, 9:49 AM EDT

    South Korea's Son Heung-min, right, scores his first goal as Laos's Pinkeo Khamla tries to block it during their Asian zone Group G qualifying soccer match for the 2018 World Cup at  Hwaseong Sports Complex Main Stadium in Hwaseong, South Korea, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. South Korea won 8-0.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon) AP

    Son scored in the 12th, 74th and 89th minutes of South Korea’s 8-0 win over Laos in AFC World Cup qualifying on Thursday.

  9. MLS preview: Sounders vs. Toronto FC, Crew SC vs. FC Dallas headline Week 27

    Sep 4, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders FC Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders FC

    Week 27 is upon, and though international call-ups have decimated a number of teams, this weekend’s MLS action should still be decent.

  10. Real Madrid’s Perez says De Gea move failed because Manchester United lacks transfer “experience”

    Sep 4, 2015, 8:22 AM EDT

    MADRID, SPAIN - JUNE 09:  Real Madrid President Florentino Perez gives as speech as he attends the 7th edition of the 'Catedra Real Madrid' Project at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on June 9, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Perez says a move that should’ve taken an hour “took eight”, and blasted the Red Devils’ chairman by using examples from 2013.

  11. Providence and its big American striker Mac Steeves are off to a red-hot start (video)

    Sep 4, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    PC Men's soccer versus Monmouth, Aug. 30, 2015. (Photo/Stew Milne) PC Men's soccer versus Monmouth, Aug. 30, 2015. (Photo/Stew Milne)

    A 6-foot-4 American striker has Providence aiming for another College Cup, and U.S. Soccer fans on notice.

  12. Now flush with “Candy Crush” cash, Derby County aiming for Premier League return

    Sep 3, 2015, 9:39 PM EDT

    Derby County v Reading - Capital One Cup Third Round Getty Images

    As it turns out, Candy Crush was worth a lot of money. So much money, in fact, that Mel Morris bought his boyhood football club.

  13. Preview: USMNT to face Peru in tune-up for CONCACAF playoff vs. Mexico

    Sep 3, 2015, 8:37 PM EDT

    Panama v United States: Third Place - 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup Panama v United States: Third Place - 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup

    The USMNT returns to action for the first time since finishing fourth at the 2015 Gold Cup. Their playoff vs. Mexico is 37 days away.

  14. Italy’s Serie B to introduce “green cards” for good behavior this weekend

    Sep 3, 2015, 6:45 PM EDT

    Modena FC v AC Cesena - Serie B Playoffs Getty Images

    This weekend, referees will begin dishing out green cards, which mean absolutely nothing.

  15. EURO 2016 qualifying roundup: Iceland beat Netherlands (again), are all but qualified

    Sep 3, 2015, 5:55 PM EDT

    Gylfi Sigurdsson, Iceland & Swansea City FC Gylfi Sigurdsson, Iceland & Swansea City FC

    Tiny, tiny Iceland are all but qualified for next summer’s EUROs after beating the might Netherlands…again.

  16. England U-21s 1-0 USA U-23s: Defeat in England as Olympic qualifying looms

    Sep 3, 2015, 4:51 PM EDT

    Mario Rodriguez, USMNT U-23 Mario Rodriguez, USMNT U-23

    With Olympic qualifying less than a month away, final tune-ups are underway for the US U-23 squad.

  17. If you’ve ever criticized Jurgen Klinsmann or his USMNT, you don’t understand soccer

    Sep 3, 2015, 4:20 PM EDT

    Jurgen Klinsmann, USMNT Jurgen Klinsmann, USMNT

    Jurgen Klinsmann’s latest comments confirm what we’ve assumed all along: he believes he is immune to criticism.

  18. VIDEO: Should we be worried about Manchester United after huge overhaul?

    Sep 3, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    Manchester United v Newcastle United - Premier League Getty Images

    Red Devils have ripped apart their title-winning team from 2013. Will things settle down anytime soon?

Featured video

PST Extra: Analyzing transfer deadline day