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Dynamo in control, but D.C. United focused on completing comeback in East finals

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The Houston Dynamo are sitting pretty, but D.C. United have some factors playing in their favor as they look to pull off an improbable comeback to reach the MLS Cup final.

United faces a two-goal deficit after becoming the latest team to lose in Houston, but they will be playing at home in front of their loud fans and star attacking player Dwayne De Rosario is expected to be available off the bench. Throw in the fact that starting goalkeeper Bill Hamid will be back in between the pipes after serving his one-game suspension for the red card he received in the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals, and United has plenty to be optimistic about.

The not-so-good news for Sunday’s hosts, however, is that Chris Pontius is a game-time decision due the groin injury he picked up in last weekend’s 3-1 loss at BBVA Compass Stadium. If Pontius cannot play, United will lose a big part of their attacking punch and they will need players like rookie Nick DeLeon to step up and fill the void so as to have a chance of pulling level on aggregate.

For the Dynamo, the task is simple: Do not lose by more than one goal. Dominic Kinnear is as experienced a head coach as there is when it comes to MLS playoffs, so Houston has to be feeling good about maneuvering its way through this tricky second leg and on to MLS Cup final. What makes things even better for the Dynamo is the play of Will Bruin, who is the leading scorer in the playoffs with four goals.

Here is a closer look at the second leg of the Eastern Conference finals:


RFK Stadium, Washington D.C.: Nov. 18, 4pm, NBC Sports

SEASON SERIES: Prior to this past weekend’s win, the Dynamo already held a 2-1 advantage over United after three regular season games this season. The home team has won each of the four games played thus far in 2012.

KEY PLAYERS – D.C. UNITED: M Chris Pontius, GK Bill Hamid, D Brandon McDonald, M Nick DeLeon HOUSTON DYNAMO: M Brad Davis, M Oscar Boniek Garcia, F Will Bruin, GK Tally Hall.

MATCH-UP TO WATCH– Bobby Boswell vs. Chris Pontius. The D.C. United forward is a game-time decision for Sunday’s match due to a groin injury, but if he starts he will be the player Houston will need to shutdown to hold onto their two-goal lead. Pontius has proven he is capable of making an impact on games and coming through in big moments, so Dynamo centerback Bobby Boswell will need to continue to be a rock in the back.

OUTLOOK – D.C. United are in a hole, as they need a two-goal win to keep themselves alive. Playing in their favor is that the home team has won each of the four times these two teams have met, but United is in need of some serious offensive punch.

For that reason, you can expect United head coach Ben Olsen to deploy attacking tactics while Houston Dynamo head coach Dom Kinnear has his team absorb pressure and hit back on the counter. There is also a good chance that when the Dynamo have possession of the ball, they will try to find the red-hot Will Bruin.

 The Dynamo are up by two goals and another would all but assure them advancement to a second straight MLS Cup final, but D.C. will come out attacking in an effort to make sure that doesn’t happen. Playing at home in front of their own fans, D.C. will have an advantage and they could also get a boost if Pontius and De Rosario are able to start and come off the bench, respectively. If they do, D.C. will have enough firepower to turn the series around, but without that tandem, Houston should be able to hold on for the series victory.


How do you see the second leg going? Expecting the Dynamo to sit back and defend? Think United has any chance of winning this series?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. I know I’m beating a dead horse but just go onto ESPN right now. Nothing about either game today. Scroll over the “soccer” section and no mention in the top stories that come up. It is starting to feel like ESPN is giving up on soccer and accepting the loss to Fox and NBC.

  2. Let’s just break down the scores in the series so far this year.

    2-3 at DC
    1-0 at Houston
    4-0 at Houston
    3-1 at Houston

    10-4 overall (Houston)

    I know Houston’s rocked the home field advantage this year in the series, but they managed to put in 2 against DC at DC. DC hasn’t managed HALF that against Houston in three tries.

  3. But of course, one of the main things Houston has going for it is that Bill Hamid will be back in goal for DC United. Just like his terrible performance in the US Olympic qualifiers and brain dead own goal and red card (where the highest energy thing he did was whine), there are fewer keepers I fear less when the stakes are highest.

    • At the same time, Hamid could easily pitch a shutout as he has many times at home. He has made mistakes, but its not as if he’s a lock to make one or more every game. I wouldn’t even call his red in NY a mistake, just the goal he gave up in DC. He’s not going to be the issue. Scoring enough goals will be more of an issue for DC.

  4. H-Town Fan: How I love your loyalty you can’t just ignore the talent that is on Kansas City, DC United, Seattle, and the Galaxy. Houston just plays better team ball than the others. It is a team sport afterall.

    • I fear the Galaxy most because they are talented and team oriented. I feared the Fire but the irony is that the group of players who Klopas used to make the playoffs (and started against us) were less effective against us than the unit that beat us handily during the regular season (he gets a Xmas card for not starting Oduro and Nyarko against our CBs). DC, I think he made a bad bet on personnel that killed him in half 2. You see where in half 1 it kind of worked but then his hurt players broke down and the bet went south on him fast, they looked exhausted by the end and we ran up the margin.

      Far as KC is concerned, we’ve owned them since last year’s playoffs. I think they have some interesting players but it’s a naive style of 433 play to run in the playoffs. I know people think they have good attackers but the message of the past 2 years should be if they want to play a 433 in MLS it needs even better attackers because we can outscore them if we slow the game down. People of course will be like Zusi Sapong Bunbury they’re good……but like Henry good? Bravo was one of the few players they had of that level, but he was out for most of our series last year, and gone this.

  5. Love the Banter…But People are forgetting the fact Dynamo played without two Huge pieces of the puzzle last week. No Rico Clark (He was exhausted) and Carr. Three if you count Moffit (came of in 1st if i remember correctly), and there is even a case for Williams (although Hinnault has played very well). We get Rico, Carr and Moffit back healthy and in the line-up we have a better advantange. But NOTHING is certain in soccer! 2-1 to DC, we go through on Aggregate.DALE DYNAMO!

  6. I wonder how many series this website has ever predicted the Dynamo to win? DC isn’t nearly as talented as the Dynamo and neither is Kansas City. Only one team is and we’ll be playing them again in the finals and we’ll have a quarter of their payroll. Dom’s the man.

    • If you want the Dom counterexample it’s that 2 of the past 3 years we’ve ended up matched with LA in the playoffs and unable to score. Why? Because once he let DeRo go he became more of a defensive caricature of himself, which means he continues to create playoff teams but if they meet more of a mirror image like LAG, we struggle to score for ourselves. The old SJ teams plus the 06/07 units were more balanced and had more serious playmaking (Donovan, DeRo), weren’t so wing-dependent. The cup winning teams were good on defense but not “defensive teams.”

      You’re pointing to the payroll, I’m pointing to half a dozen DMs and no #10. It’s kind of like the USMNT, if the team was a little more offensively-oriented it would be even better than it is. But ever since DeRo left #10 has not been a priority and now in the post-Holden and -Cameron era, we don’t even bother, we start 2 DMs.

      Oh, I hope we do well, finish this one off, win the next, I just think the Dom-for-brains seem to miss why we haven’t won since 2007. This used to be a team that could put up 4-5 goals, and still play tough defense.

      • Man, you claim to be a Dynamo fan but you’re so hard and critical on them all the time. I find that I disagree with a lot of the stuff that you say regarding Houston.

        True, we ended up in the playoffs against the Galaxy a couple times within the last few years but we were able to score and if you remember, our goal was called back because of a phantom foul. If you watch the replay, the foul was actually ON CHING but the ref called it the other way. This of course was during the power outtages and what not. And last year we didn’t score because we had injuries (Davis was out, and Cameron was hurt in the 1st half but didn’t tell Kinnear cause he wanted to stay in, only for him to have surgery after the game)

        Also, you make it sound like Dom Kinnear really had a choice regarding letting DeRo go. He wanted to leave, he wanted to go back to Canada with his family. Can you imagine keeping a player against his will and expecting him to play to the best of his ability?? Like Ching was REALLY GONNA PERFORM for Montreal when he was drafted? LOL! Same thing with Ricardo Clark, Chris Wondolowski, and Stuart Holden. I’m sure Ricardo is glad he’s back and I’m sure Holden is wishing things were different, sure I bet he enjoyed his opportunity to play abroad but the poor guy hasn’t played in like 2 years and now his club is broke and is gonna have to let a lot of players and staff go. What fun is that?

        Lastly, you mention that “Dom for Brains” might figure out why we haven’t won since 2007. Dude, do you know how many teams have been introduced into the league since then? Add on top of the the better quality of players each team has gotten since then? Sure, it’s true that Houston is missing a pure striker but with financial constraints it’s kinda tough.

        Just keep in mind that now that the Dynamo have their own stadium, all the ticket prices, expensive hotdogs, sodas, beers, pretzels, etc will go towards finding a REAL DP! Hopefully Houston goes after Kaka, Ronaldinho, or Drogba since all have expressed their interest in playing in MLS in the future (which means a.k.a. “when the price is right.”

        Listen, just keep in mind that combined with last year’s playoffs the Houston Dynamo are on a 28 game unbeaten streak in all competitions at home, 2 MLS Cups back to back which is very difficult, the only team to have won both the Eastern and Western Conference Championships, made 3 MLS Cup appearances in 7 years, playing for the Conference Championship 4 times in 7 years, made the playoffs 6 times in 7 years. What more do you want? No team can just win every year, that happened with the NY Cosmos and the whole league crumbled because no one wants to see that except the city winning but when it all goes down hill then everyone loses, even that city cause then they didn’t have a team anymore nor the league. Dominic Kinnear is doing a fine job. Plenty of teams WISH they could boast this kind of record. Hell, DC United hadn’t made the playoffs in almost 5 years! Also, your last statement says that Houston use to put up 4 goals or more and have tough defense. They still do. The last time they DC United played Houston during the regular season I believe Houston won 4-0 or something like that.

        You’ve gotta love how Houston was down during the first half of this playoff series 1-0 when playing a 4-4-2 formation, only to switch it up in the second half with a 4-3-3 formation and steamroll with 3 goals to win the game 3-1. Ben Olsen got out-coached while his players were dropping like flies from all the playoff pressure. Hell, DC only played against NY whereas Houston had to fight off the number 1 seed in the East (Kansas City).

  7. Pontius and DeLeon and nice MLS players, but that’s all. Without Najar, the team has almost no craft. Boskovic can pull the trigger, but for whom? Pajoy doesn’t not have brace in him. Maicon Santos can wreak havoc, but Ben won’t start him for some reason. Maybe he will on Sunday. Paired with Salihi (another that Ben just WILL NOT start), they could worry Hainault and Boswell into a red card pretty easily. But, Houston is just too wily, epitomized by Brad Davis. They will teach us a lesson that we will hopefully use to positive effect next season.

    • Say what you will about Pontius, although I think he’s certainly the kind of player the MNT could use on the wing, but DeLeon is a rookie! If it weren’t a regular season award, I think he’d have a great case for rookie of the year. He’s a young player and he can get a whole lot better. I think he’s a similar prospect to Juan Agudelo. He just needs some polish, some experience, and a couple well timed boosts to his confidence.

  8. any regular season, or previous history, results don’t matter in the playoffs or at this point. i would be very surprised if we get eliminated, but if we do DC deserves MLS cup at home.
    as far as pontious for the Nats, if he keeps it up , it’s possible.

  9. I do think a more rested DC will be better prepared to confront the Dynamo in the second leg, but they will do so down 2 goals, and perhaps without some players they foolishly tested rather than rested in leg 1 (Pontius, McDonald, Saragosa), so as such I think if DeRo comes back he merely fills a Pontius-sized hole. Houston will be getting back players too.

    My biggest concern in the East was Chicago based on regular season results. I think the big hurdle will be LA in a road final without the heat when they are playing well.

    • It’s not foolish to put your best players on the field for an important match. Pontius said he felt the same going into the Houston match as he did going into the 2nd leg against NY injury wise…However, I consider it foolish for MLS to schedule playoff games 3 days apart. Everyone wants to the see best quality on the field possible, why the rush? Hope they change that in the future.

  10. This game really comes down to the third goal Houston scored in the first leg. If the first game had ended 2-1 for Houston I would like DCU’s chances in the second leg. But I don’t see DCU keeping Houston off the score board Sunday and I don’t see DCU scoring three plus goals.

  11. whata joke. Look at what the Dynamo have accomplished in the play-offs the last two seasons. They have gone to very tough places and won. They went to KC with a two goal lead and held on. Why would anyone predict the dynamo will lose this game in PK’s? Terrible analysis.

    Can’t see how you can bet against Dom Kinnear and the dynamo going in with a two goal lead

    • Your opinion is understandable, but your team cannot be as confident as you are otherwise they’ll lose. Unlike SKC we don’t swing in tons of crosses and fire lots of low percentage shots. We’ll create fewer opportunities, but injuries willing we have the quality finishers to get the job done. We put three by you guys at home earlier in the season and our defense has improved significantly since we let you guys put two past us then. If injuries don’t sink us then I suspect we have as good a chance as anyone of coming back from two down.

      • You maybe right and I maybe too confident but looking at the facts… we went to Philly and won last year, we went to KC and won last year, we went to chicago and won this year, we went to KC and got the result we needed this year… we’re up 2 goals and were going to DC on sunday….. but yea DC is gonna comeback and win in PK’s…. how can you make that analysis? DC may get DeRo and Pontius back.. but how effective will they be coming off injuries?

        I don’t think going to DC is nearly as difficult as going to KC either… that place is truly rocking… my dad went up last year for the conference final…. incredible atmosphere and no team (besides the dynamo) work as hard for 90 as KC.

        Dynamo go to DC, sit back and absorb whatever they have to… don’t care if its pretty or not (probably wont be) and maybe lose 1 – 0 maybe tie 1 – 1…. not sure what the score will be but im confident we dont lose 3 – 0 or 2 – 0 (even then, we have just as good of odds in winning in PK’s)

      • You don’t think… You significantly underestimate RFK – La Barra Brava – Screaming Eagles – La Norte – District Ultras… Sure, RFK is cavernous, but it’s going to be the best crowd there in years, and everyone is thirsty for another chance at the cup.

  12. i give my dynamo the edge simply because of our coach………this is why coaches are important.

    i expect us to absorb and counter and i expect we will catch DC being too aggressive early and slip one in on them.that will take the wind out and be the end of a GREAT year for DC….Benn Olsen is going to be a great coach for a long time in MLS but its not his time yet.He is going up against the S.A.F. of MLS Dynamo win 4-2 on aggregagte…….

  13. A 1-1 draw. Dynamo pick up the early goal. DC scores early int eh second half, but can never quite find the next one to make it closer.

  14. Interesting how Houston is still the underdog in so many people’s minds. D.C. is definitely dangerous, especially when healthy, but their current injuries combined with Houston’s hot form of late makes this really tough for DC, imo. Looking like another Galaxy v. Dynamo Cup…

  15. About DeRo — my odds are he starts the game. The guy is a pro and has been bothering Benny to play for almost two weeks now. It would benefit them much more to bring him in and get that 1 goal lead, then sub him out in the 2nd half. You want to maximize his minutes and you don’t do that by bringing him int he 60th or so.

    • I feel the same, but for the opposite reason. I want DeRo out first because I feel it makes DC weaker for the latter part of the game. The last thing I want to watch as a Dynamo fan is fresh-legged DeRo playing against our tiring CBs in the second half.

      • Yeah, the problem is that if Pontius isn’t ready to go, the offense will have nothing in the first half. DC will need to get the 1st goal early, be patient, and then snag the 2nd goal later in the game.

      • Yeah I hear that. I think there’s multiple strategies that can be taken here. Either way though, it is a tough uphill climb. I just hope my Dynamo don’t park the bus.

  16. They can do it, nothing is impossible. D.C. probably has the best chance, but games haved to played and we don’t know what might happen. Seattle put themselves in a hole, the Galaxy usually sit back absorb pressure and then spring quick counterattacks with Keane or Donovan up top.

  17. If DC comeback and win this then they no doubt deserve this. And I, a Dynamo fan, will admit it if they can pull it off. They have a 2 goal defecit, no Pontius, no Najar and maybe no McDonald. That’s one hell of a climb. I hope the atmosphere in RFK is great and I can’t wait to see this match.

    Also, I nominate Bruin and DeLeon for the Nats.

      • Yeah I just didn’t list Pontius because of the injury. DeLeon is really young, but he plays with the US style. He has a motor and he’ll play gritty. And most of all, he scores when it counts.

      • Gotcha. Yeah I don’t feel like I’ve seen him enough to make a fair judgment on his speed. Especially since this playoff schedule has the teams playing 3 games in 8 days. I do like his style though. I think he makes good decisions and he’s pretty good with his feet. Pontius is definitely ready, been ready.

      • Michael Bradley is super slow, but he makes up for it with skill and decision -making. These guys have more than enough pace.

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