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Sounders Seize Full Control of MLS Western Conference Final in Houston

Two away goals–including one from from a former Dynamo forward–have the defending MLS Cup champions one step closer to booking a return trip to the title game.

The Seattle Sounders won 2-0 at the 10-man Houston Dynamo on Tuesday, taking control of MLS’s Western Conference finals as the two teams head to Seattle for the second leg on Nov. 30.

Gustav Svensson put Seattle ahead 1-0 with an 11th-minute header, and after Houston’s Jalil Anibaba was sent off for denying Joevin Jones a goal-scoring opportunity by pulling him down in the box in the 28th minute, former Houston forward Will Bruin scored a second away goal for Seattle against the shorthanded side just before halftime.

Seattle was able to win convincingly despite being without starting goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who injured a hamstring in training and was replaced Tuesday by Tyler Miller. Frei could be available for the second leg. Jordan Morris and Osvaldo Alonso remained out with their respective injuries, too.

Here are three thoughts on the game:

Seattle’s got this

Playing at home with a two-away-goal advantage, the Sounders will have to feel confident about their chances against a Houston team that has shown little ability to create offense this season without playing on the counter. Unlike Portland in a similar situation in the previous round, Seattle converted on its early chance through Svensson, and this game could have ended with an even bigger deficit for Houston had Joe Willis not saved Nicolás Lodeiro’s first-half penalty kick.

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Jones was terrific for Seattle on the left flank, bottling up Alberth Elis while getting forward and creating all sorts of danger. It was Jones who earned the penalty/red card, and it was Jones whose cross found Bruin for the back-breaker goal with the assist.

If there's a downside for Seattle, it's that center back rock Roman Torres will miss the second leg after a needless late yellow card rules him out through accumulation.

Shorthanded, Composed Toronto FC Resists in Columbus, Heads Into Second Leg Confident

Houston still carved out quality chances

Facing a Seattle defense that was capably anchored by Torres and Chad Marshall, Houston knew it wouldn’t get many scoring opportunities, and when it went down to 10 men, that task became even more difficult. But Mauro Manotas had some chances and failed to convert, including a golden one in the second half that went wide of the mark. Those things can make the difference in the playoffs. Houston fans, who had seen their team go 12-1-4 at home in the regular season, had to rue the fact that Bruin, a former Dynamo standout who has scored more goals than any other player in BBVA Compass Stadium, would strike once again when it matters most.

Everybody Wins: Simple Steps for Fixing the Faulty MLS Playoff Format

Why on earth did MLS allow this game to kick off before the other playoff game had finished?

There were still 10 minutes left in the Columbus-Toronto game when this game kicked off. That makes absolutely no sense for fans. Sure enough, Svensson’s goal came before most viewers watching the other game had the chance to switch over. It’s things like this that drive people nuts. If you’re an MLS fan, all you want to do is watch both games. When you can’t do that, something is wrong.