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Playoff Masters

Bringing back Clutch City: Dynamo excel under pressure like no other Houston team

Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
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Update: As clutch as ever, the Dynamo took an early 1-0 lead on DC United in the second leg, setting the stage for a 1-1 tie and a commanding two-goal aggregate win.

The Dynamo are back in the MLS Final, set to play at the star-studded LA Galaxy on Dec. 1.

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One Houston sports team is doing its part to keep that Clutch City moniker alive and relevant. The Houston Dynamo stand on the verge of their fourth MLS Cup Final in their short history, taking a two-goal lead over DC United into the second leg of the Eastern Conference Finals at RFK Stadium Sunday afternoon.

The Dynamo simply have to protect that advantage (win, tie or lose by a goal) to advance to the Final, which would likely be a rematch of last year's championship duel with the star-studded LA Galaxy.

Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
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The Dynamo built the commanding advantage by scoring three goals in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Finals at home.

Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
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Houston knows how to keep the pressure on in the playoffs. The postseason is Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear's time of the year.

Photo by John Boni
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Taking full advantage of starting both their two-leg playoff series in the raucous, friendly environment of BBVA Compass Stadium, the Dynamo have kept favored foes off guard.

Photo by John Boni
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DC United coach Ben Olsen and his team are scrambling to regroup.

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Dominic Kinnear has a way of doing that to opposing coaches. Kinnear is now 13-8-4 all-time in the playoffs, with many of those runs coming as an underdog.

Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
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While the Dynamo used well drawn-up set pieces — keyed by midfielder Brad Davis' passing — to make last year's surprise run to the MLS Cup Final, this current run has been triggered by their success in the open field.

Photo by John Boni
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The Dynamo are not superstar driven. They are not the LA Galaxy of David Beckham and Landon Donovan.

They are team driven.

Photo by John Boni
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The Dynamo will not be able to bring all those rabid fans to RFK Stadium.

Photo by John Boni
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But they'll bring the type of fight Kofi Sarkodie showed on this play against DC United in the first leg of the series.

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Things get a little heated in the playoffs.

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Andre Hainault (left) knows it's all about fighting for the ball.

Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
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There are times the Dynamo have appeared to be overpowered.

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Times, they have gotten knocked down — as Davis (who didn't get to play in the MLS Cup Final against LA because of injury last season) knows.

Photo by John Boni
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But the Dynamo have a way of picking themselves up, dusting themselves off and . . . 

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. . .  ending up celebrating in the end.

Will Bruin (shown here) has now scored four goals in four playoff games this year, giving him a club-record 16 for the season.

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Bruin is not supposed to be able to do this. He's not super fast. He's not super quick.

But he keeps leaving goalie staring back at their net in horror.

Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
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The 6-foot-4 Macoumba Kandji is another big weapon for the physical Dynamo.

Photo by John Boni
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Goalie Tally Hall has already tied the all-time franchise record for career playoff wins and his 6-2 postseason mark shows just how clutch the Dynamo have been during his time in net.

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Hall knows that winning is good. Winning means being able to bring your pride and joy around the field on a victory lap.

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The Dynamo knew to savor that last playoff moment at BBVA Compass Stadium this year. Here, Bobby Boswell keeps things light and fun — as usual.

Bring out the little ones . . .

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The more the merrier.

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Even the often-stoic Dominic Kinnear allowed himself a moment with family.

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It's all about collecting rings for the Dynamo though.

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To give themselves the chance to play for one for the second straight season, the Dynamo will have to maintain their composure on the road.

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No matter what it takes to win the ball.

Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
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The Dynamo know that they have control of another playoff opponent — another playoff run. That's clutch.