O Captain! My Captain!
Wins don't get much bigger than this.
The Houston Dynamo won their 100th game in franchise history by beating the Philadelphia Union 1-0 Thursday night to advance to the conference finals for the fourth time in six seasons. In what was likely the last Dynamo game ever at Robertson Stadium. With captain Brian Ching — the man who scored the first Dynamo goal ever at Robertson — scoring the game's lone goal.
And when it was over, the Dynamo took a lap around the stadium, thanking their fans. The 24,000 who showed up on this cold (for Houston night) — and in spirit, all those who showed up at Robertson (hardly an ideal soccer venue) through the years. The Dynamo are supposed to be making their big news next year, when they move into their sparkling, new stadium not far from Minute Maid Park. Team president Chris Canetti often talked about trying to build momentum going into the new stadium.
The Dynamo got through this transition season all right. Right through to the conference finals.
Well . . . the Dynamo's momentum has taken them right into the Eastern Conference Final for a Sunday afternoon (4:30 p.m.) road game against Sporting Kansas City. The winner of that game will play for the league championship in the MLS Cup — with everyone expecting the dynamic LA Galaxy of Landon Donovan and David Beckham to be on the other side as the Western Conference winner. For much of this season, the Dynamo weren't thought of as legitimate title contender, but Ching and the boys are on a 6-0-2 late-season roll.
They beat the Philadelphia Union by a convincing 3-1 margin in the MLS two-game, aggregate-goals format.
Taking a one-goal advantage (thanks to a 2-1 win in front of a frenzied Philly crowd) into Thursday's matchup, the Dynamo defense never really gave the Union a chance. Tally Hall — who carried the Dynamo in Philadelphia in a 10-save game — didn't have to do all that much with the team back at home.
Hall's only tough save came when he gobbled up a Veljko Paunovic bullet in the 59 minute. With Ching having already scored in the 48th minute — in first half extra time — the Dynamo were already in command by then on the aggregate goals scoreboard.
Ching's goal came on a header off a free kick pass from MLS assist master Brad Davis — on one of those set plays that make the well-coached Dynamo so dangerous. So it's on to another conference final.
Not bad for a "rebuilding year."
That's how most sized up this season for the Dynamo. With that new stadium buzz beckoning just ahead, with more than half the roster turned over from the 2010 season (14 of 26 new players), with the team's most dangerous player (the 33-year-old Ching) hurt at the start of the season, this seemed like a year to just get through.
The Dynamo got through it all right. Right through to the conference finals.