That sets up the second and final game in aggregate-goal series — this time back on the Robertson Stadium home turf — this Thursday night. The team with the most combined goals after Thursday will advance to the Eastern Conference Final.
But for the Dynamo, this journey began with the disappointment of last year's 9-15-6 season.
Houston's professional soccer team is a two-time MLS Cup winner, but after a playoff-less 2010, president Chris Canetti and head coach Dominic Kinnear knew that changes needed to be made. They overhauled the roster in the offseason, turning the Dynamo into one of the younger teams in the MLS, and they kept tinkering throughout this season, being unafraid of trades.
"When those [new] players settled in . . . It made a more complete team, and I think that the results have shown that," Kinnear said Tuesday.
The team has seen ups and downs throughout the 2011 season, but the players are finally "gelling" on and off of the field, according to Kinnear.
"We wanted some momentum going into the brand new stadium (next season)," Canetti said. He admits that he and Kinnear are never satisfied, and are always looking for ways to improve the team. "But whatever happens on Thursday. . . we're really proud of what we've accomplished this year."
One goal in the lead, Kinnear is confident, but he admits, "Nothing's guaranteed here, because Philadelphia is still a good team . . . They want to advance as well."
The Dynamo and the City of Houston will hold a pre-playoff rally at the City Hall Farmers Market, on Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to noon. Mayor Annise Parker, Canetti, the team's Dynamo Diesel mascot and the Dynamo Girls are all set to attend the high-energy send off where some free Dynamo merchandise will be given away.
Tickets for Thursday's game are still available online.