Drilling down on: at Houston 3, Philadelphia 1

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HOUSTON – Late goals by Oscar Boniek Garcia and Brad Davis have Houston back in the playoffs, returning to the postseason for a second consecutive season after a 3-1 win over Philadelphia.

Man of the Match: Houston’s effort was a balanced for most of the night, but when the game was dragging on at 1-1 and needed a player to do something special, Oscar Boniek Garcia stepped up. On a 71st minute counterattack, Garcia cut back on his right foot at 20 yards out and blasted the game winner off Zach MacMath into the left of Philadelphia’s goal.

By Garcia’s standards, the rest of the night was quiet, but in a game where great moments often win out over steady play, Garcia made the difference. Some of his teammates way have put in better shifts, but it was Garcia’s moment of brilliance that put his team in front.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Among the Dynamo players who had more consistent nights was Brad Davis, who shook off a left calf strain to put in his typical, reliable shift. On a team that started a central midfield of Ricardo Clark and Adam Moffat, Davis’ ability to provide a link coming in from the left proved valuable. With Houston switching back to a 4-4-2 formation for tonight’s match, Davis was back in his most comfortable spot.
  • Brian Ching also made a huge impact, even if he didn’t come on until the 66th minute. The Dynamo icon provided the assist on Garcia’s goal and later played the ball that induced a Carlos Valdes foul on Will Bruin, the Union defender conceding a penalty kick. Davis converted to provide the final score.
  • Up until Houston’s late goals, it looked like Philadelphia might hold out for a draw, even if they were being outplayed for the most of the match. After the teams swapped early scores (Macoumba Kandji and Jack McInerney), there were few great scoring chances. A couple of first half opportunities found their way to Kandji, but come the second half, Philadelphia looked like they had the Senegalese attacker figured out. Eventually Kandi gave way to Ching.
  • One of the main reasons Kandji was held in check was the play of Amobi Okugo, who continues to show progress at his new  position (center half). Okugo’s speed helped track Kandji and Bruin as they sought to run through Philadelphia’s central defense. The natural defensive midfielder also made a couple of nice reads coming off his line to break up passes played to Kandji’s feet. Okugo’s starting to develop the kind of instincts that will make him one of the league’s better center halfs, if given time to develop.
  • But Okugo was one of Philadelphia’s only bright spots. The attackers behind McInerney (Fredy Adu, Michael Farfan, Danny Cruz) were non-factors, while the holding midfielders (Michael Lahoud and Andy Carroll) did more containing than destroying.
  • With the win, Houston is back in the playoffs, albeit in fifth place at the time of this writing. With a win on the final weekend and some help, they can still climb finish as high as third.