Houston lost MVP candidate Brad Davis to injury in the first half, but it did not matter one bit. The Dynamo are going to MLS Cup for the third time in six years.
Andre Hainault and Carlo Costly each scored in the second half as the Houston Dynamo defeated Sporting Kansas City 2-0 in front of a sellout crowd at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park on Sunday night in the Eastern Conference final. Houston will play the winner of Real Salt Lake and the LA Galaxy at the Home Depot Center on Nov. 20 in the MLS Cup final. The Dynamo also earned a spot in the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League with the victory. Kansas City’s season is over after suffering just its third loss at LSP this season.
With a record 20,839 fans behind them, Sporting went right at the Dynamo from the opening whistle. Kei Kamara fired the game’s opening shot in the second minute, forcing Tally Hall into a routine save while trying to find the back post with a low, driven shot. The tide turned from there, though, at least when it came to legitimate scoring chances. Kansas City continued to put pressure on Houston, but Dominic Kinnear’s team found numerous chances to hit back on the counterattack.
Brian Ching was the first to come close to troubling Jimmy Nielsen, ghosting into space behind the Sporting defense in the eighth minute after a fantastic pass by Luiz Camargo, but he was thrown off slightly by Aurélien Collin and chipped the ball onto the roof of the net. Another diagonal ball unlocked the Kansas City defense 10 minutes later, but Calen Carr fired his effort directly at Nielsen, who swept the ball away.
A few minutes later, Ching and Carr combined to create the first half’s best opportunity. Ching rose above Collin at the back post, heading the ball across the six-yard box, but Carr’s diving lunge came up just short, and the ball trickled out for a corner kick.
The game settled down for the next quarter of an hour until everything changed in the 35th minute when Davis was forced out of the game. The MLS MVP candidate tangled with Graham Zusi in the midfield and immediately went to ground clutching his right leg. After Davis was helped off the field by Dynamo trainers, Kinnear was forced to substitute Jermaine Taylor in for his midfield talisman. Taylor moved to the left back role, with Corey Ashe moving into Davis's position on the wing.
Kansas City took control for the rest of the half and had its best chance of the first 45 minutes just before the intermission. Zusi’s corner found Matt Besler at the back post, and the central defender headed the ball back across frame, but Hall was there to gather C.J. Sapong’s shot.
Neither side made a substitution at halftime, but the game itself changed significantly when Houston scored the opening goal in the 53rd minute from, not surprisingly, a set piece. Adam Moffat filled in admirably for Davis, sending a ball to the back post to a streaking Taylor. The Jamaican's header was saved by Nielsen but Hainault was waiting on the doorstep to knock home the goal, sending the Houston fans in attendance into a frenzy.
With the crowd silenced, an incredible defensive play by Matt Besler kept the score at 1-0 just two minutes later. Once again, Houston tore the Kansas City defense apart with a diagonal ball, and Ashe ended up with the ball at his feet and charging into the area. He tried to find Camargo at the back post, but Besler’s desperate, sliding challenge knocked the ball to Nielsen at the last second.
Although they were up a goal, the Dynamo kept pushing forward, putting Sporting on their heels with little chance to hit back. The hosts managed few answers and had a penalty appeal waved off in the 77th minute, much to the chagrin of the home crowd. Davy Arnaud, who had replaced Roger Espinoza two minutes earlier, burst past Ching at the edge of the penalty area and went to ground just inside the area. However, referee Mark Geiger waved off Kansas City’s appeals, leaving manager Peter Vermes’ side to chase the game for the final 15 minutes.
Desperate for an equalizer, Vermes replaced Júlio César and Seth Sinovic with Jéferson and Omar Bravo, but the changes did not pay the dividends that Kansas City was hoping for. Houston kept its shape tight and limited Sporting’s possession before delivering the final blow in the 87th minute. Camargo’s splitting through ball sent substitute Costly through on goal, and the Honduran international made no mistake, banging a shot off the post to make the score 2-0 as Nielsen watched helplessly.
Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting Kansas City
November 06, 2011 -- LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, Kansas City, KS
Eastern Conference final
HOU -- Andre Hainault 2 (unassisted) 53
HOU -- Carlo Costly 1 (Luiz Camargo 1) 87
Houston Dynamo -- Tally Hall, Andre Hainault, Bobby Boswell, Geoff Cameron, Corey Ashe, Danny Cruz, Adam Moffat, Luiz Camargo, Brad Davis (Jermaine Taylor 39), Brian Ching (Carlo Costly 78), Calen Carr (Will Bruin 68).
Substitutes Not Used: Tyler Deric, Alex Dixon, Hunter Freeman, Je-Vaughn Watson.
Sporting Kansas City -- Jimmy Nielsen, Chance Myers, Matt Besler, Aurelien Collin, Seth Sinovic (Omar Bravo 85), Julio Cesar (Jeferson 82), Roger Espinoza (Davy Arnaud 75), Graham Zusi, Kei Kamara, Teal Bunbury, C.J. Sapong.
Substitutes Not Used: Eric Kronberg, Birahim Diop, Michael Harrington, Soony Saad.
HOU -- Calen Carr (caution; Reckless Tackle) 17
KC -- Julio Cesar (caution; Reckless Foul) 30
HOU -- Luiz Camargo (caution; Reckless Tackle) 55
KC -- Roger Espinoza (caution; Dissent) 74
HOU -- Carlo Costly (caution; Shirt Removal) 87
Referee: Mark Geiger
Referee's Assistants: C.J. Morgante; Steven Taylor
4th Official: Chris Penso
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial