The Houston Dynamo closed out their 2011 MLS regular season with a bang, dispatching the LA Galaxy 3-1 Sunday night at Robertson Stadium. In doing so, they secured second place in the Eastern Conference and earned a date with the Philadelphia Union in a home-and-away aggregate series.
LA entered the match missing six starters; Galaxy manager Bruce Arena gave them the night off after they won their CONCACAF Champions League match against CD Motagua in Honduras Thursday night. Among those missing for the Galaxy were David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and Omar Gonzalez. The Orange refused to show mercy, as they put on a clinic in front of the 30,018 fans at the Rob.
There were four clear winners in Sunday's game.
1. Adam Moffat had another wonder strike The game started out slow, with neither team really pressuring the other's goal. But the complexity of the match changed in the 27th minute with a shot heard around Robertson Stadium. From 38 yards out, Moffat blasted a shot that hit the upper right corner of the net to make it 1-0 Dynamo.
"I think it slightly skimmed off Danny [Cruz]'s back, so I think he's trying to claim the goal, so I'll take the assist," said Moffat, who had a similar goal against the Portland Timbers on August 14. "It was a great strike, and I'm delighted it was for the win. The win is awesome."
Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear admitted the goal helped open up the game, and helped ease the nerves of the team.
2. Brad Davis secured MLS assist title Davis entered the match tied with Beckham for the league lead in assists with 15. That all changed in the 48th minute when the Dynamo were awarded a free kick from about 30 yards out. Davis lobbed a pass into the top of the box, where Moffat headed the ball down in play. Bobby Boswell was the first to the ball, and shot it in toward the bottom right corner.
The goal was Boswell's fifth of the season, Moffat's second assist and Davis's 16th assist -- surpassing the inactive Beckham for the league lead. Davis would add a 17th assist later on in the match, giving him the league assist crown. The Dynamo midfielder is strongly making a case for league MVP, as well as a spot on Jurgen Klinnsman's US Men's National Team.
3. Carlo Costly scored first MLS goal Since the Honduran's arrival at the end of the summer transfer window, Costly has come close several times to notching his first career MLS goal -- but always fell short. The Dynamo finally got him going in the 74th minute. During the run-of-play, Davis curled a pass to the far post, where Costly was waiting. With Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts running towards him, Costly headed the ball in back to where Ricketts was originally.
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After the goal, Costly earned a yellow card for taking off his shirt during his celebration. "You saw the celebration when he scored, the guys were happy for him," Kinnear said. "I think he's respected in the locker room and the guys enjoy having him here."
4. Dynamo escape dreaded one-game wild card match The top three seeds of each conference earned an automatic playoff berth. The next best four made the wild card round, regardless of conference. The wild card match is a one-game, winner-take-all contest that would be played either Wednesday or Thursday. The winning teams turn around and play in the semifinal aggregate round series against either the Galaxy or Sporting Kansas City that very weekend.
Kinnear attributed the evening's slow start to the players mapping out different scenarios in their heads. With the win, the Dynamo avoid the scenario of having to beat FC Dallas in Pizza Hut Park mid-week, then a clash with a full-strength LA Galaxy. Instead, the Dynamo will travel to Philly to play the Union on October 30, and then host them on November 3.
It's important to note that the Dynamo have finished as conference runner-ups three times. The last time was in 2009, when they lost in extra time to the Galaxy in the Western Conference Final. The other two times were in 2006 and 2007, the years they won back-to-back MLS Cups.