HOUSTON (AP) -- The Houston Dynamo are 90 minutes away from their fourth MLS Cup final since 2006.
Andre Hainault, Will Bruin and Kofi Sarkodie each scored second-half
goals to give the Houston Dynamo a 3-1 win over D.C. United on Sunday in
the first leg of the Eastern Conference finals.
The win gives Houston a two-goal aggregate lead heading into next Sunday's decisive match at RFK Stadium in Washington.
"We played a wonderful second half," said Dynamo coach Dominic
Kinnear. "That just shows the great character we have to score three in
the second half after being down 1-0 early."
The Dynamo extended their home unbeaten streak to 30 games in all
competitions, dating to June 18, 2011, when they lost to Columbus.
Houston is four wins or ties shy of matching Real Salt Lake's
league-record 34-game home unbeaten streak.
Nick DeLeon scored for United in the 27th minute.
"(Our home unbeaten streak) is neat, I will say that," said Kinnear,
the only coach the Dynamo have had since moving to Houston before the
2006 season. "I think the record that we've had at home this year is
Trailing 1-0 at halftime, the Dynamo tied it in the 51st minute when
Hainault one-timed a pass from Boniek Garcia high into the net. It was
Hainault's first goal of these playoffs and third of his career.
Houston defender Bobby Boswell made the save of the match in the 66th
when he stopped a point-blank shot by Lionard Pajoy on the goal line
with Dynamo keeper Tally Hall just out of position.
That set up Bruin's go-ahead goal one-minute later. Sarkodie got his
first MLS goal in the 80th minute to seal it for the Dynamo, who are in
their fifth conference final in seven seasons.
"The stop by Bobby really changed the game for us," said Bruin, who
has scored six goals in seven career matches against United. "That was
good awareness, and he is a smart player. It is the little things like
that that really have made a difference for our team all year."
DeLeon scored when he put a rebound past Hall. After Lionard Pajoy
bounced a shot off the far post, the rebound came back to DeLeon, who
fired a shot into the net off Hainault.
Backup goalkeeper Joe Willis made four saves for D.C., while Hall had two for Houston.
"At the half, the mood in the locker was normal, I will say," said
Kinnear. "There was no panic, our heads were not down. The guys were a
little disappointed to be down 1-0, but by no means were we frustrated."
D.C. captain Chris Pontius left the game in the 12th minute with a
left groin strain. Lewis Neal replaced the United striker and recorded
the first shot of the game in the 17th.
In the 23rd, Houston fanned on its first legitimate chance of the
match. Boniek Garcia sent a free kick into the middle of the box to a
wide-open Hainault, but his header was wide.
Houston took the regular season series 2-1, but United won the only
game at RFK Stadium back in May. Houston outscored D.C. 7-3 in three
games during the regular season and is 9-2-4 all-time against United.
The Dynamo played without several starters due to injury. Jermaine
Taylor and Calen Carr sat with left knee and left hamstring injuries,
respectively, and Ricardo Clark did not play because of an adductor
"The weeklong break will be good for us," said Kinnear. "It will be a
time to heal and get ready for what will no doubt be a hard-fought
finish to this series."