See pics of The Dynamo's final game at Robertson Stadium.
For the fourth time in six seasons, the Houston Dynamo are back in the MLS Conference Championship Game. They arrived via their 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Union, 3-1 on the aggregate score. They'll travel to Kansas City to face Sporting on Sunday, the winner punching their ticket to the MLS Cup on November 20.
Thursday's victory over the Union was vintage Dynamo; tough defense, maintained possession, physical play and a Brian Ching goal on a set piece from Brad Davis. Other than the Dynamo's final score, there were four winners in last night's match.
1. Brian Ching Ching scored his first goal since August 20, and it couldn't have come at a more opportune time. With the first half seconds away from coming to an end, Ching rose up to head in a free-kick ball into the near post. The goal marked his eighth career MLS playoff goal, second only to LA Galaxy's Landon Donovan. Although the goal was not the series-winning goal -- last Sunday's goal from Calen Carr was -- it gave the Dynamo a two-goal advantage on the aggregate score margin. Not only did it alleviate the pressure on the team, it pretty much sealed any chance the Union had.
2. Brad Davis As the league's regular season assist leader and MVP candidate, Davis rose to occasion with excellent service on set pieces for the second straight time against the Union. He assisted on Ching's goal with his pinpoint passing on the free kick, just as he did Sunday at Philadelphia. In all, Davis assisted on two of the Dynamo's three goals against the Union. If there were an award for semifinal series MVP, it would be Davis.
3. The Dynamo Defense Throughout the 2011 campaign, head coach Dominic Kinnear experimented with different lineups in backfield to try to find a consistent defense. It wasn't until he put Geoff Cameron back in central defense that the defense finally started to click. Since the move, the Dynamo have gone 6-0-2, including three straight road wins. Against the Union on Thursday, the Dynamo defense looked like mirror images of their championship backfield. They were physical, they broke up any threat the Union sent their way, they were superior in the air.
Also give credit to the central midfielders -- Adam Moffat and Luiz Carmago. With the pair patrolling the center of field, they provide the perfect linkup to the offense. They help maintain possession and they mark the opposing team's attacking midfielders -- making quality counterattacks hard to come by for opposition.
4. Robertson Stadium Robertson Stadium hosted its final Dynamo game on Thursday night. It was only poetic justice that Ching scored the game-winning goal, as he scored four goals in the team's first game at the Rob back in 2006. Robertson was the site of many great Dynamo games; back-to-back Western Conference Championships in 2006 and 2007, SuperLiga matches and CONCACAF Champions League games. It also hosted great rivalry games against FC Dallas, Chivas USA and Pachuca, just to name a few.
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This year, Robertson was the site of Alex Dixon's game-winning, stoppage-time goal against Real Salt Lake, two 35-yard golazos by Moffat against the Portland Timbers and LA Galaxy, and the Dynamo's second straight victory over Mexican champion CF Monterrey. As everyone looks forward to the team's new dig in east Downtown, it's hard to not reminisce on the Rob. The palm trees on corners and the football lines during the playoffs will all be missed.
Sunday's Eastern Conference Championship will be at Livestrong Sporting Park at 4:30 p.m. local time.