BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (AP) — Postseason experience meant more than home-field advantage in the opening round of the MLS Eastern Conference playoffs Wednesday night.
Will Bruin scored twice and the Houston Dynamo beat the Chicago Fire 2-1 to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Dynamo reached the MLS Cup final last year and won the league championship in 2006 and 2007. The Fire, who hosted the knockout-round match, hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2009. The difference showed.
“After the first goal, we kind of had that feeling it was our game,” Bruin said. “We were putting them under pressure, and got the goal as a reward for our play.”
The Dynamo, who hadn’t beaten the Fire since 2010, will host top-seeded Kansas City in Sunday’s first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“We didn’t think about getting another home game,” Houston coach Dominic Kinnear said. “We give ourselves a chance to move on farther, which is nice.”
Bruin’s first goal, a header off Brad Davis’ corner-kick cross from the left side, came in the 12th minute. From that point until the 82nd minute, when Brazilian veteran Alex beat goalkeeper Tally Hall to cut Houston’s lead to 2-1, the Dynamo had Chicago off balance.
“We were able to impose our will,” forward Calen Carr said. “We pressed them and kept them from getting comfortable. And a lot of our guys have been there (in the playoffs). That helped us today.”
Houston took advantage of a Chicago mistake at the start of the second half for its second goal. Fire defender Gonzalo Segares’ clearing pass was deflected, and Oscar Boniek Garcia led Bruin. Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson got his right hand on Bruin’s 10-yard shot, but couldn’t stop it 19 seconds into the second half.
The goal stunned the Fire, and squelched coach Frank Klopas’ plan to attack relentlessly with Alex, who replaced Logan Pause at halftime. It took another 35 minutes for Chicago to get untracked.
“I thought we had the energy,” Klopas said. “We had opportunities and didn’t take advantage of them. What are you going to do?”
Houston controlled the ball more effectively for the first 75 minutes, giving Hall an easy night until Alex’s goal. He finished with six saves.
Chicago’s best chance before Alex’s goal, a point-blank drive by forward Sherjill MacDonald, was kicked aside by midfielder Adam Moffat in the 71st minute.
Notes: The Dynamo put six shots on goal. … Houston is 1-0-2 against Kansas City this season. … The second leg of the semifinals is Nov. 7 in Kansas City. … Houston was undefeated (11-0-6) at home this season and has a 29-game unbeaten streak dating to July 9, 2011, including last year’s playoff matches en route to the Eastern Conference title. … The Dynamo last beat the Fire on Aug. 21, 2010, in a regular-season match.
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