[MLS]In 24 MLS games this season, Houston midfielder Stuart Holden had scored just one goal.
Now he has three, and the Dynamo (12-5-11) is this close to clinching the Western Conference championship.
Holden scored his second goal of the match in stoppage time to down San Jose, 2-1, Wednesday night at Robertson Stadium and increase Houston's lead atop the west to five points over Chivas USA. The teams meet on the final weekend of the regular season at Home Depot Center but the title may be decided by then.
Holden scored on rebounds of shots off the woodwork by Kei Kamara and Nate Jaqua to all but extinguish the Quakes (7-12-9) from the playoff race. They are six points out of third place in the West and the same margin behind a slew of wild-card contenders with just two matches to play. This game, the makeup of a Sept. 20 match postponed in the wake of Hurricane Ike's devastation, offered them a chance to make up a few valuable points, but instead their winless streak increased to five games.
Kamara fired a shot off the post that Holden followed up to score the first goal in the sixth minute, then received a red card five minutes later from referee Jair Marrufo for elbowing defender, and former teammate in San Jose, Nick Garcia. No matter. Houston, down a man or not, controlled most of the match.
Scott Sealy pounced on yet another major error by defender Eddie Robinson - this a poor back pass - to equalize for San Jose with his fourth goal of the season midway through the second half. The Quakes held out despite being outshot, 12-6, until the 93rd minute, when midfielder Brian Mullan tore down the right wing and crossed a ball that Jaqua headed off the crossbar and Holden tucked away.
Houston can clinch the conference title and homefield advantage in the playoffs by winning at home Saturday against the Galaxy. If it does, Chivas USA will host Colorado Sunday with both eyes on the playoffs, and not a showdown at HDC the following week.