Houston advances past Sporting KC to East finals
The pressure of spending 90 minutes on their heels had sapped them.
"We knew when we got the fifth spot we were going to have to earn it," Kinnear said. "We had to roll up our sleeves, put our tin hat on and defend for our life."
The Dynamo squeaked into the playoffs as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, but beat fourth-seeded Chicago in the knockout round, and then continued its dominance of Sporting KC with a 2-0 win in the first match of the two-leg conference semifinals.
The result allowed Houston to adhere to Kinnear's style by sinking back on defense and muddying up the middle of the field, forcing Sporting KC to swing passes wide on the wing and then force looping shots into the penalty area, where its size could knock them away.
That's what happened in the eighth minute, when C.J. Sapong drew a foul and Zusi uncorked a free kick from 25 yards that Kamara managed to get his head on but send just wide of the goal.
It happened again in the 26th minute, when Kamara's shot was deflected away, and early in the second half, when Zusi's sent a free kick arcing into the box that was knocked back out.
Sporting KC nearly had the series equalizer in the 73rd minute, when Sapong beat a Houston defender to a pass from Kamara, and the forward chipped the ball just over goalkeeper Tally Hall, who was late in trying to secure it in front of the next. The ball just cleared the crossbar.
Matt Besler another chance in the 85th minute, when his right-footed shot was high and wide.
Houston held on from there to end a successful season for Sporting KC.
The recently rebranded club, playing in its still-new state-of-the-art stadium, captured Kansas City's imagination this year. Not only did it repeat as regular-season conference champions for the first time in club history, it also won the U.S. Open Cup for only the second time.
"We're going to look at it and say there were some very good things," Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said, "but we fell short of all our goals."
Sports Photo Galleriesview all
- 101218Oklahoma tornadoes: The 'Big Dog,' the little boy and the hug that triumphs over tragedy
- 15357OKC Thunder: Kevin Durant tours Moore, meets with residents
- 13402Oklahoma tornadoes: ‘All I could do was sit there and hold her'
- 8724Line of storms brings flash floods to Oklahoma City area
- 8110How to help tornado victims
- 8098Oklahoma tornadoes: Love for Oklahoma generates big donation
- 8041Oklahoma tornadoes: Rams quarterback Sam Bradford leading aid effort