Houston advances past Sporting KC to East finals
KANSAS CITY, Kansas (AP) -- Houston Dynamo did enough to hold off Sporting Kansas City and advance to the MLS Eastern Conference final despite a 1-0 loss on Wednesday.
Houston, which won the home leg 2-0 on the weekend, advanced 2-1 on aggregate and will meet either D.C. United or New York Red Bulls in the two-legged East final. The second leg of New York-D.C. was postponed due to snow and will be played on Thursday; United was held 1-1 at home in the first leg.
The sole goal on Wednesday came in the 64th minute when Seth Sinovic scored with a diving header off Graham Zusi's cross to notch his first MLS goal and raise the hopes of the home crowd.
The regular-season conference champions spent the next 30 minutes desperately trying to find the second goal that would force extra time, creating several good chances.
Every time, though, Houston's physical back line managed to knock the ball clear of danger, or goalkeeper Tally Hall would leap forward to snatch a through ball and spoil an attack.
The outcome was never assured for Houston until the four minutes of stoppage time had expired.
Dynamo squeaked into the playoffs as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, but beat fourth-seeded Chicago in the wild-card playoff, and then continued its dominance of Sporting KC with a 2-0 win in the first match of the two-leg conference semifinals.
The two-goal buffer from the first leg allowed Houston to adhere to coach Dominic Kinnear's style by defending deep and clogging the center of the pitch, forcing Sporting out onto the wings and reliant upon crosses which the tall Dynamo defenders were able to repel.
Sporting nearly equalized in the 73rd minute, when C.J. Sapong got behind the defense and attempted to chip the ball over Hall, but the ball floated over the crossbar.
The rebranded Kansas City club was eliminated after a relatively successful season, winning the U.S. Open Cup and reviving its fan base.