By DAN KARELL
The Houston Dynamo had failed to defeat the New York Red Bulls in their first four meetings this season. But none of that mattered when the teams faced off for the fifth time on Wednesday night in the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
In their third game in seven days, Dominic Kinnear’s side pulled off an impressive 2-1 victory after extra time against the Red Bulls, progressing to the Eastern Conference finals with an aggregate score of 4-3. Omar Cummings again played the hero for the Dynamo, scoring in the 104th minute on a flicked shot that just snuck over the line, enough for the assistant referee to award a goal.
Despite scoring the opener and controlling possession throughout, the Red Bulls impressive season comes to a stunning end.
Following a sustained spell of attacking pressure, the Red Bulls were perhaps appropriately gifted with the opening goal of the game. Off a cross from the right by Red Bulls right back Brandon Barklage, Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall spilled the save, allowing Bradley Wright-Phillips to jump in and smash home the rebound in the 23rd minute.
Just as the Red Bulls were given a goal on an uncharacteristic mistake, so too were the Dynamo given a chance to equalize in the 35th minute. Red Bulls defender Ibrahim Sekagya, who looked to have hurt his leg just moments earlier while stretching on a clearance attempt, sent a pass straight to the Dynamo’s Brad Davis at the top of the box. The Dynamo captain took one touch and scored easily, stunning the home crowd.
Though Houston suddenly had the game’s momentum, the Red Bulls nearly took the lead again in the 45th minute. Thierry Henry took a side-footed shot towards goal that Red Bulls midfielder Tim Cahill deflected at the top of the six yard box, forcing Hall to make an incredible reflex save.
In the second half, both teams began to look more sloppy moving forward as tired legs took over. Regardless of the fatigue, the Red Bulls had three occasions to score starting in the 65th minute. A long throw-in was flicked on by Cahill to Henry, who headed the ball off the crossbar. Both Cahill and McCarty each had chances in the next few minutes, but their shots went right to Hall, who made up for his earlier error over the course of the game.
Henry again had a chance to end the match in regulation with a bicycle kick shot towards goal in the 90th minute that took a deflection and trickled wide of goal, saving the Dynamo’s chances.
Cummings, who came into the match in the second half, again got the all important touch for the Dynamo to put them ahead for good in the 14th minute of the first period of extra time. All the Jamaican forward needed was a slight touch to direct it towards goal, just crossing the goal line before Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles could scoop it out.
The Red Bulls sent long ball after long ball into the box but the Dynamo defense and Hall stayed strong and wound up winners, stunning the home crowd and ending their season.