[MLS PLAYOFFS: New York-Houston] Not for the first time in MLS, playoff experience won the day. Houston, on a quest to play in a third straight MLS Cup, cleared its second hurdle Wednesday by beating New York, 2-1, in extra time at Red Bull Arena to win their Western Conference semifinal series, 4-3, on aggregate.
The Dynamo fell behind in the first half on a goal by Bradley Wright-Phillips but replied on a Brad Davisstrike to tie the game. Following nearly 70 minutes of scoreless play featuring several superb saves by Dynamo keeper Tally Hall, Houston struck again in extra time through Omar Cummings to take a 2-1 lead it would hold until the final whistle.
Houston advances to the Western Conference finals against Sporting Kansas City, which it has eliminated from the playoffs the past two seasons. The Dynamo hosts the first leg Saturday at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Cummings had scored in the final seconds of the first leg to tie that game, 2-2, after coming on as a substitute, and off the bench he downed the Red Bulls again. In the 14th minute of the first extra-time period, Kofi Sarkodie got free down the right wing and crossed a high ball that Cam Weaverheaded towards goal. Cummings fended off two opponents to poke the ball a foot or so over the goal line just inside the post. Red Bulls keeper Luis Roblespinned the ball with his hand and quickly pulled it back over the goal line, but the goal had already been given.
The Red Bulls seldom threatened in the second 15-minute period and a sellout crowd of 22,246 gave their players, which had posted the best regular-season in team history to win the Supporters’ Shield, a consolation round of applause during the post-game handshakes.
Mistakes produced the first two goals. Hall fumbled a low cross centered by Lloyd Sam and Wright-Phillips pounced on it to score in the 23rd minute and give the home team a 3-2 lead on aggregate. But as the Red Bulls tried to ride out that 1-0 lead until halftime, defenderIbrahim Sekagya carelessly played a pass into the middle right to Davis, who sauntered in alone on goal to stroke a shot past Robles.
Cummings and Red Bull forward Fabian Espindola came on as subs early in the second half, and the Red Bulls nearly took the lead right away with Espindola in the attack. Henry reached a Tim Cahill flick to send a header off the crossbar, and a few minutes later Henry crossed a ball that Cahill headed right to Hall. After another minute, Henry’s corner kick was flicked on to Dax McCarty, who also headed it into Hall’s arms.
Hall saved again in the 77th minute on a deflected Cahill header as the remainder of regulation time unfolded without a goal. Henry continued to threaten, nailing a bicycle kick that deflected narrowly wide and firing a shot that scraped the top of the crossbar.
Nine minutes into extra time, Dynamo head coachDominic Kinnear made what turned out to be another decisive substitution, that of Weaver for Giles Barnes. Weaver pulled away from his marker as Sarkodie’s cross dropped and Cummings reacted quickest to Weaver’s header as Markus Holgersson (playing in the middle in place of the suspended Jamison Olave) and Sekagya lunged in too late to stop the ball from rolling just over the line.
After Weaver’s header was nudged home by Cummings, Red Bulls used their last sub on Peguy Luyindula. His shot scraped the top of the crossbar on the last attack of the game, and that of the Red Bulls’ best and yet most disappointing season.
Nov. 6 in Harrison, N.J.
New York 1 Houston 2.Goals: Wright-Phillips 23; Davis 36, Cummings 104.
New York --Robles, Barklage (Luyindula 106), Holgersson, Sekagya, Carney, Sam (Alexander 76), McCarty, Steele, Cahill, Wright-Phillips (Espindola 64), Henry.
Houston --Hall, Sarkodie, Brunner (Weaver 85), Boswell, Ashe, Garcia, Creavalle (Driver 70), Clark, Davis, Barnes (Weaver 100), Bruin (Cummings 65).
Yellow Cards: New York -- Barklage 25; Houston -- Ashe 93.
(Houston wins 4-3 on aggregate)