The Houston Dynamo rode its early dominance to an easy 2-0 victory over the Montreal Impact on Thursday. Houston advanced to the Major League Soccer Eastern Conference semifinals and will play two legs against the New York Red Bulls.
Dynamo midfielder Ricardo Clark pressed high often, including on the first goal of the game. Forward Will Bruin dropped deep to find the ball and played a one-two combination with Clark, whose skillful back-heel pass set Bruin up with an easy finish in the 16th minute.
Houston’s impressive streak when scoring first continued, as the Dynamo has not lost in 15 matches when going up a goal in 2013.
Ten minutes later, the result was sealed. Impact midfielder Hernán Bernardello took down Oscar Boniek García just inside the penalty area despite support from two other defenders, and García finished what he started to give his team a two-goal advantage.
The Impact could not get much offensive momentum, even though Houston dropped off slightly in the second half. Forward Marco Di Vaio was caught offside four times, and he received little attacking support when he found the ball in a legal position.
His best chance came in the 61st minute, when Tally Hall dove to his right to parry wide Di Vaio’s shot from outside the penalty area.
Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear’s playoff train kept rolling with the result. In 2012, the Dynamo finished in fifth place in the Eastern Conference and advanced all the way to the MLS Cup final before falling to the Los Angeles Galaxy. Houston proved last year, and look to do so again, that playing the extra game is not an insurmountable task for playoff success.
Kinnear’s opposite number, Marco Schällibaum, gambled by starting Nelson Rivas at center back after he saw no action during the regular season. Like much of what Montreal did on Thursday, it didn’t pay off, as Rivas was sent off after two similar fouls, getting his hands in Giles Barnes’ face in the 35th minute and jumping with a high elbow on Will Bruin in the 70th.
Bruin added the final goal of the game soon after Rivas left the field. He outran Matteo Ferrari to a loose ball and cut inside on Jeb Brovsky before lifting an easy shot into the open net.
The Impact wasn’t done getting red cards, though. Substitute Andrés Romero received one after he kicked out at Kofi Sarkodie on the ground after the whistle in the 88th minute, and Di Vaio received one in the aftermath for putting his hand on Corey Ashe’s neck-and-face area twice.
Houston hosts the Red Bulls in the first leg of their series on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET, broadcast on NBC).
Houston Dynamo (4-4-2): Tally Hall — Corey Ashe, Eric Brunner, Bobby Boswell, Kofi Sarkodie — Brad Davis (Andrew Driver, 82), Warren Creavalle, Ricardo Clark, Oscar Boniek García — Will Bruin (Cam Weaver, 79), Giles Barnes (Omar Cummings, 79)
Unused substitutes: Tyler Deric — Mike Chabala, Servando Carrasco, Alexander López
Montreal Impact (4-2-3-1): Troy Perkins — Jeb Brovsky, Nelson Rivas, Matteo Ferrari, Hassoun Camara — Hernán Bernardello, Collen Warner (Felipe Martins, 61) — Andrea Pisanu (Andrés Romero, 54), Andrew Wenger (Daniele Paponi, 61), Justin Mapp — Marco Di Vaio
Unused substitutes: Evan Bush — Davy Arnaud, Patrice Bernier, Wandrille Lefevre