Slumping in MLS's Western Conference and coming off a 1-0 home loss to Sporting Kansas City in which three players and head coach Wilmer Cabrera were ejected, the Houston Dynamo could have
folded in the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night.
It blew a 3-1 lead against LAFC and conceded the tying goal by young Uruguayan Diego Rossi -- his third goal of
the game -- in the fifth minute of stoppage time.
But the Dynamo hung on and won in a shootout, 7-6, after a 3-3 draw to advance to the Open Cup final for the first time.
Andrew Wenger, Mauro Manotas and academy product Memo
Rodriguez scored to stake the Dynamo a 3-1 lead after 75 minutes, but Rossi became the first player in the MLS era to record a hat trick in the semifinals or final with two late goals.
The hero for Houston was keeper Joe Willis, who stopped LAFC captain Laurent Ciman in the fifth round of the shootout with a chance to end the game and Latif Blessing in the eighth
Instability on the backline has been a problem for the Houston defense all season, and the Dynamo has slumped in MLS play, going 2-6-3 in its last 11 games after starting out
5-3-3 over the first 11.
Given what his players have been through, Cabrera said the shootout win on Wednesday was well-deserved.
"I’m proud of them because we’ve
been suffering a while," he said. "It’s been difficult, but they haven’t given up, and that’s the most important thing. We’re still humble. We know our limitations, but we
continue working hard to try to achieve our goals, and it wasn’t easy. Today, we faced a very tough opponent, and even though we were ahead, they came back and tied the game. The key was that we
never gave up, and the guys tried, and the guys pushed against a very tough opponent."