5 Things We Learned as Dynamo Bow Out of MLS Cup Eastern Finals

The third time was apparently the charm for Sporting Kansas City, who finally got over the Houston Dynamo en route to the franchise's second MLS Cup appearance.

And all it took was inspired play by former National teamer Benny Feilhaber and 22-degree weather to keep the Dynamo from reaching their third consecutive MLS Cup Final.

Here are five things we learned from the Orange's MLS Cup Playoff ouster.

5. Absences from the match

There were notable exclusions from Dynamo's lineup for the second leg -- and not by choice. Key members right down the middle of the field were out because of injury. Start with forward Will Bruin, who has six playoff goals in the past two seasons. Central midfield was devoid of Ricardo Clark, who was gaining some recognition among media members for a possible look-see for the U.S. Men's National Team.

Also gone was central defender Jermaine Taylor. But we knew the Jamaican was going to be out for the entire postseason. The other two were early exits in the first leg because of injuries, possible due to shoddy MLS scheduling (the Eastern Conference first leg began three days after both teams advanced from the semifinal round, while their Western Conference counterparts had five days to rest).

4. Out of the gates early

Against Sporting KC, the Dynamo always use their outside mids to attack Sporting's wingers, who like to push up. The plan paid dividends early, as Boniek Garcia cashed in on goal in the third minute of play.

First it was Andrew Driver, who pushed the ball on the left-hand side to the end line and was able to cross the ball inside the ball. As the ball was batted around a bit, Brad Davis was able to head the ball to Garcia, who sidestepped his defender and knocked in another playoff goal.

3. Oh, Benny

Unfortunately, that was the lone goal for the Dynamo on the night. The problem for Houston was Sporting's play in the middle of the pitch. And the one man who had a hand in all of the night's goals was Feilhaber.

His turnover in the second minute caused the Dynamo counterattack that led to the first goal. He then rectified himself in the 14th minute, when his shot was blocked and deflected straight to C.J. Sapong, who was able to equalize the game at 1-1.

In the 63rd minute, he had a run up the middle, then sent a through ball to Dominic Dwyer for the game-winning goal.

The chart below illustrates the success in distribution for Feilhaber. All these successful passes were back toward the middle. Without Ricardo Clark, there was no one to stop Feilhaber from launching Sporting's offensive straight up the middle.

2. Rivalry Ending?

One thing that hasn't changed and won't is the fact that the two teams hate each other. The fans hate each other. That's only natural when both teams have decided the fate of the Eastern Conference the last three seasons.

That may not last that much longer. This season, MLS has announced expansion of the league to 21 clubs -- New York City FC and Orlando City. Their inclusion in 2015 should send the Dynamo packing their bags and returning to the Western Conference -- where they'll go back to using FC Dallas as personal punching bags.

1. A side note about the ladies

It appears the Dynamo are looking into bringing women's soccer to BBVA Compass Stadium. Team President Chris Canetti first tweeted his flirtation with the idea last week. Now the team is accepting applications for season tickets to gauge whether or not there is sufficient fan interest in the city.

It's interesting to see the potential impact a local team could have on women's youth soccer. We all know the women's game in this country has far exceeded the men's game at the international level -- to the tune of multiple Olympic Gold medals, World Cup titles and youth championships. If the Dynamo do pull the trigger and land a team in the NWSL, they'll add women's soccer to their academy levels, giving Houston's best young girls the chance to practice and play in a professional environment. That's something that would benefit girls, from youth soccer to local high schools to local collegiate programs.

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