Dynamo lose home playoff match for only the second time

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The Houston Dynamo have a remarkable 10-2-3 home playoff record (Robertson and BBVA Compass Stadiums) since moving to Houston from San Jose before the 2006 season.  Unfortunately one of those two losses came last night when the Dynamo were soundly beaten 2-0 by the Seattle Sounders in a sold-out BBVA Compass Stadium.

I am not going to spend a lot of time talking about this match because:

  1. It was depressing and writing about it doesn’t improve the result.
  2. Seattle is defending MLS Cup Champions for a reason, and that is….
  3. If you honestly look at the rosters both teams put on the field last night the Dynamo would have needed to play a perfect game or have a series of fortuitous events fall their way to win.  For example:
    • Be the beneficiaries of an 11th minute unmarked set piece goal by a defensive midfielder with a grand total of 1 MLS goal to his name.
    • Having the luxury of playing a man up for 60 minutes.
    • And finally have a former player, who was deemed surplus to requirements last offseason and basically given away to a conference rival, score the goal that effectively won the series.

None of these things happened for the Dynamo, but they did for Seattle.  Apparently the Dynamo’s good fortune ran out in the Portland series.

Now for the good news on the night:

  • A sell out crowd brought back memories of other electric home playoff matches in both BBVA Compass and Robertson Stadiums.  Even the high rollers in the club seats and suites were mostly present.  We also saw a stadium record attendance of 22,661.
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The cards were a good idea until, down 2 goals and bored, the fans turned them into paper airplanes and frequently flew them onto the field. Who would have guessed this could happen?
  • This TIFO

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  • Joe Willis’s penalty save after Jalil Anibaba took down Joevin Jones in the box and earned a red card for his efforts.

Sorry, that is pretty much it.  The Dynamo now need to win 3-0 in regulation on November 30 in Seattle to advance (or score twice, hold the Sounders scoreless for 120 minutes and win a penalty shoot-out).  By the way, do this in front of a rocking 50,000+ sell-out crowd, in a place they have never won and without their most dangerous attacker, Alberth Elis, who despite being on a caution warning picked up an idiotic yellow card for dissent last night and will be suspended.  All of these fun facts would test the faith of even the most optimistic fan.  Keep reading though….there is a historical basis for shock 3-0 wins by road teams though it doesn’t bring back pleasant memories for Dynamo fans.

Historical perspective:

Putting last night aside, the Dynamo performance since they moved to Houston is quite remarkable.  In 12 seasons the Dynamo have been to 7 conference finals, 4 MLS Cups and won 2 championships.  Not counting MLS Cups, the teams overall playoff record is 15-7-6.  In addition to the superb home record discussed above, they are actually at .500 on the road too (5-5-3).  Some of these losses and draws came during two-legged series where the Dynamo advanced, making the record even more remarkable.

Some solace can be taken from last nights result…..it is not the worst home playoff loss in Dynamo history.  That would be the other loss…a fun-filled 3-0 shellacking by New York Red Bulls in the 2008 Western Conference Semifinals.

  • Why the Red Bulls were even playing in the Western Conference playoffs is still a curiosity.  Back then somebody in MLS thought it would be a good idea to have the bottom team in each conference playoff bracket be awarded to the teams with the best regular season record, even if they came from the other conference.  As a result Red Bull entered the the Western Conference playoffs (by one point over Colorado) and ended up making a run all the way to MLS Cup where they lost to Columbus Crew…the only time that an MLS Cup was contested by two teams from the same conference.  Fortunately, somebody in charge at MLS decided this wasn’t very smart and the cross-conference playoff seeding process stopped a few years later.
  • This 2008 Dynamo team was the only one during the remarkable 2006-12 run that actually won its conference during the regular season (13-5-12-51 points), despite starting the season with a 2007 MLS Cup victory hangover at 0-2-4.  Houston also made it all the way to the 2008 SuperLiga (defunct competition between MLS and LigaMX clubs) final where they lost to New England on penalties that year.
  • Houston had played the first leg of the series at Giants Stadium in New Jersey the previous weekend and came away with a 1-1 draw, setting up a favorable home fixture return match.
  • The Dynamo were loaded that year.  The starting lineup for the Red Bull game was full of Dynamo and MLS legends:
    • Goalkeeper:Pat Onstad
    • Defenders: Richard Mulrooney, Bobby Boswell, Eddie Robinson, Wade Barrett
    • Midfielders:  Brian Mullan, Ricardo Clark, Dwayne De Rosario, Brad Davis
    • Forwards:  Brian Ching, Kei Kamara
    • Future United States Internationals were on the bench. Stuart Holden entered as a second half substitute and Geoff Cameron never made it onto the field.
  • All of that didn’t matter on what turned out to be a beautiful autumn Houston day.  Dane Richards, a Jamaican International and San Jacinto College Alum, ran wild up and down the right side in the first half and scored the first goal in the 25th minute.  This led to Dominic Kinnear inserting midfielder Corey Ashe into the lineup at halftime as a left back to replace Wade Barrett to try and slow Richards down.  This game ended up eventually turning Ashe into a permanent left back where he had a long and successful career.  For New York, Juan Pablo Angel also scored a first half penalty and Red Bull finished the scoring with a late counterattack goal as the Dynamo desparately pushed players forward.
  • To say the crowd of over 30,000 fans at Robertson Stadium was shocked and stunned after this match is an understatement.  9 years later I still don’t believe I saw it happen.  The Dynamo didn’t lose at home in those early years and if they did it rarely was by more than a single goal.
  • I remember (though not perfectly) former Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear talk about how gutted he was by this loss on a Glenn Davis radio interview.  He said that this could have been his best Dynamo team and that it took longer to get over this season ending loss than any other he had experienced.

The loss last night, no matter how difficult it was to watch, could have been worse and in 2008 it was.

So a shock 3-0 MLS playoff win is possible.  Let’s hope 2017 turns the table and sees a similar 3 goal shutout win in next weeks MLS conference final second leg from the road side-this time the Dynamo.

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