[MLS PLAYOFFS: Sporting KC-Houston] Dom Dwyer, who won the USL PRO title with Orlando City earlier in the year, has a chance to pull off a rare league double in the same year as he led Sporting Kansas City to MLS Cup 2013 with the winning goal in its 2-1 win over the Houston Dynamo in the second leg.
Sporting KC will host the winner of the Portland-Real Salt Lake series Dec. 7 at Sporting Park, where a record crowd of 21,650 braved freezing temperatures to watch Saturday's match.
Houston led on a goal by Oscar Boniek Garcia in the third minute, but the Dynamo gifted the home team an equalizer 11 minutes later when Bobby Boswell played a ball right to C.J. Sapong, who beat the helpless Tally Hall.
Preview:Portland-Real Salt Lake
The score remained even until the 63rd minute when Graham Zusi broke through in midfield and fed Benny Feilhaber, whose through ball put Dwyer in on goal. The young Englishman stepped around Kofi Sarkodie and fired a shot past Hall.
By the time Dwyer led Orlando City to the USL PRO title with four goals in the final against Charlotte, he had already been recalled and was starting to see consistent playing time with Sporting KC. When Dwyer returned, Sapong went down to Orlando for a while.
The Sporting KC scoring aces were supposed to be Claudio Bieler -- rarely used recently -- and Kei Kamara -- now in England -- but the goal scorers in the Eastern Conference final were a pair of players who had spent part of the year in the third level of American soccer.
“It’s been a crazy season,” Dwyer said afterwards. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet. I’m just pleased, and I’m excited, but we’ve got two weeks' time so I’m trying to calm down right now.”
Both Dwyer and Sapong had strong games against Houston, as did Feilhaber, for whom the conference championship was vindication after New England shipped him the Kansas City and he struggled to keep a starting job.
“It's satisfying to play with these guys,” he told. “[Coach[ Peter [Vermes] put a lot of faith in me, bringing me in here, and it's about paying that faith back and really combining with these guys and playing with this team.”
The Dynamo was missing injured starters -- Ricardo Clark and Will Bruin -- and their absence was felt, along with Jamaican defender Jermaine Taylor, who was ruled out of the playoffs before they even started.
“I’m not much of a talker about guys who aren’t here,” Houston coach Dominic Kinnear said. “I’d rather concentrate on the guys that are here, but I know we’re a better team with Will, Ricardo and Jermaine. There’s no guarantee we would’ve won the game if they were starting, but I think our squad would be in better shape if they were here.”
In the first half at least, Houston had its chances -- more than last year when it was dominated in the second leg of the conference final but held on for a 2-1 aggregate win. Cam Weaver, starting for Bruin, could have put Houston ahead in the 30th minute but missed an easy shot.
The best chance Houston had to equalize after Dwyer's goal was onCorey Ashe's swerving blast from 25 yards that keeper Jimmy Nielsen smothered.
The loss ended the Dynamo's bid to MLS Cup for the third year in a row. The road to MLS Cup went through Kansas City the last two seasons -- this year it ended at Sporting Park.
Nov. 23 in Kansas City, Kan.
Sporting KC 2 Houston 1. Goals: Sapong 14, Dwyer (Feilhaber) 63; Garcia (Davis) 3.
Sporting KC -- Nielsen; Myers, Collin, Besler, Sinovic; Rosell, Nagamura, Feilhaber (Opara 84); Zusi (Peterson 89), Dwyer (Bieler 89), Sapong.
Houston --Hall; Sarkodie, Boswell, Brunner, Ashe; Creavalle (Carrasco 75), Davis, Barnes; Garcia, Weaver (Johnson 82), Driver (Cummings 70).
Yellow Cards:Houston -- Garcia 37, Brunner 85
Referee: Baldomero Toledo.