For the second time in as many seasons, the Houston Dynamo are going to MLS Cup.
D.C. United, meanwhile, are staying home.
Boniek García’s goal in the 33rd minute helped propel fifth-seeded Houston to a 1-1 draw Sunday evening at a sold-out RFK Stadium in the second leg of the Eastern Conference Championship as the Dynamo won the series 4-2 on aggregate. Midfielder Branko Boskovic scored for second-seeded D.C. in the 82nd minute.
The draw, only Houston’s ninth result on the road this season, sealed the club’s fourth conference championship in seven seasons as the Dynamo advanced against the side with the most MLS Cups in league history on a chilly evening in the nation’s capital.
D.C. controlled possession for a majority of the first half before a defensive breakdown led to Houston’s pivotal first goal.
After a trio of Dynamo players came together at the top of the box, midfielder Brad Davis worked his way toward the end line and touched the ball beautifully to García, who one-timed it over United goalkeeper Bill Hamid.
Houston now await the winner of Sunday night’s second leg of the Western Conference Championship between LA and Seattle for the Dec. 1 MLS Cup showdown, while D.C. will carry an 18-match unbeaten streak at home into next season.
United were shorthanded from the start. Leading scorer Chris Pontius was kept out of the 18 with a groin injury and ironman center back Brandon McDonald didn’t play. Hamid started despite a sore back and first-choice right back Andy Najar was serving the second half of a two-game suspension. Midfielder Marcelo Saragosa played a half before being replaced by Lewis Neal.
For Houston, the injuries that held key players out of Sunday’s first leg healed in time for them to make an impact in the second. Ricardo Clark, Adam Moffat and Jermaine Taylor all returned to action as members of the starting XI.
Dwayne De Rosario, 2011’s MLS MVP, entered in the 62nd minute in coach Ben Olsen’s last-ditch effort to generate offense. It was De Rosario’s first appearance in a game since being injured on Sept. 11 while playing for Canada’s national team.
United generated a fair amount of scoring opportunities in the second half once De Rosario entered, including a pair of near-misses by Hamdi Salihi, but it wasn’t until Boskovic sliced through the defense and beat Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall with his right foot that United put one away.
Houston produced a fair amount of chanced in the second half as well, the most dangerous of which was Mac Kandji’s point-blank shot that Hamid saved in the 76th minute.
Lineups and boxscore (MLSsoccer.com)
Opta Chalkboard (MLSsoccer.com)