Three thoughts on Houston’s 4-3 aggregate victory over New York to advance to the MLS semifinals.
• Houston. Dom Kinnear. Playoffs. -- It’s what Houston does: The Dynamo barely sneaks into the playoffs and then turns into a SuperTeam when it counts, upending higher seeds left and right. This time the victim was Supporters' Shield winner New York, and Houston’s comeback from 2-0 and 3-2 aggregate deficits added an even more impressive element to the win. Omar Cummings didn’t score a goal in the regular season, but his second goal of the tie -- coming in the 104th minute on Wednesday -- was the game-winner on the road. Give plenty of credit also to Houston goalie Tally Hall, who made up for his first-half howler (which gifted Bradley Wright-Phillips a goal) by making two remarkable reaction saves and keeping things solid late. Houston’s playoff mentality is simply incredible.
• More New York misery. -- You thought things were different this year for the Red Bulls once they finally won the franchise’s first competitive trophy with the Supporters Shield. But how do you squander 2-0 and 3-2 leads? How do you lose at home in a game like this? Jámison Olave’s foolish red card in Houston changed everything. New York didn’t win a game all season in which Olave was absent, and that streak continued on Wednesday. It was Olave’s central-defense running-mate, Ibrahim Sekagya, whose horrible pass gifted Brad Davis Houston’s first goal, and we’ll never know if Olave would have kept Cummings from getting to the Houston game-winner that just snuck over the goal line. Oh, this New York collapse was so Metro. • The MLS playoff format still stinks. -- For the sixth time in 10 years, the MLS Supporters Shield winner has gone out in the first main round of the playoffs. We’ve been saying it over and over again: If you want to make the MLS regular season mean anything, anything at all, then you have to make the lower seeds climb a higher hill to advance in the playoffs. The best way: A Confederations Cup-like group stage in which the top seed would host all three of its group-stage games and the bottom seed would have to go on the road for all three of its group games. I’d love to see if a Dom Kinnear-coached team could find a way to advance as the bottom seed in those circumstances. Who knows? With the determination these guys have, they probably could.