KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Houston Dynamo had just allowed Sporting Kansas City's Seth Sinovic to sneak behind their defense for the first goal of the night when coach Dominic Kinnear turned to assistant Tim Hanley and whispered, "We're in trouble."
It wound up being an unnecessarily ominous assessment.
The Dynamo's big back line clamped down the rest of the way Wednesday night, assuring a 1-0 loss and allowing them to advance to the Eastern Conference finals with a 2-1 aggregate result.
Houston won the opening leg Sunday behind goals from Adam Moffat and Will Bruin, and then did enough on defense — just barely — to reach to its second straight conference title game.
"It was an exhausting night for us," Kinnear said. "We didn't play particularly well and they did. Luckily for us, one goal is all they could get, and we're moving on to the next round."
Houston, which defeated Sporting KC last year to reach the MLS Cup finals, will face the D.C. United or New York Red Bulls in another two-game, aggregate-goal series scheduled to begin Sunday.
D.C. United and the Red Bulls played to a 1-1 draw in their opening game, but the second game Wednesday night was postponed due to the Nor'Easter dropping snow in the New York area. They'll try again Thursday night with the opening leg of the conference finals pushed back a day as well.
"The one thing that really impresses me is that getting to the conference finals was going to be a tough road," Kinnear said. "We showed a lot of heart tonight."
Sinovic sent a jolt through a crowd of 20,894, the second-largest ever to see an MLS game at Livestrong Sporting Park, when his diving header off a cross from Graham Zusi found the back of a wide open net to give Sporting KC the lead in the 64th minute Wednesday night.
Kei Kamara set the play up with an impressive individual run into the box.
The regular-season conference champions spent the next 30 minutes desperately trying to find the second goal that would force overtime — all in vain, as it turned out it.
"It's part of the game, you know? We didn't set ourselves up after the first game, but we came in here ready to play," Kamara said. "We didn't get the goals that we needed to count."
The outcome was never assured for Houston until 4 minutes of stoppage time expired, and even then there was no real celebration. Just a bunch of exhausted guys shaking hands.