D.C. United all but assured their Eastern Conference title with their first-ever win in Houston, 3-1 this afternoon at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Taylor Kemp’s first half rocket gave United it’s first-ever lead in the state of Texas against the Dynamo and the Black-and-Red also added goals from Fabian Espindola and Eddie Johnson in the second half to finally end an 8-year drought in Houston.
With the win, United only needs a draw themselves in their two remaining matches (at home vs Chicago and away to Montreal) or have second-place teams Sporting Kansas City or New England not win either or their two remaining matches to complete a highly unlikely worst-to-first situation.
Although the result was fantastic for United some bad news did come their way when forward Luis Silva, arguably United’s most effective player this season, appeared to have pulled a hamstring just minutes after the match was restarted after a first-half weather delay that lasted over an hour. Eddie Johnson subbed in for Silva and then played a major role in their historic win.
After the match was stopped in the 23rd minute due to a lightning thunderstorm, United pressed the issue and took the lead in the 41st minute. Fabian Espindola split the Houston defense and found Chris Pontius bearing down on goal. Dynamo goalkeeper Tyler Deric’s sliding save kept Pontius off the score sheet but the rebound came to Kemp. The second-year defender from the University of Maryland took a steadying touch and unleashed an angled left-footed rocket from 18 yards through a thicket of Dynamo players and ripped the far side netting for his first-ever goal in MLS.
United continued to push forward and doubled their lead in lightning fashion in the 64th minute. United was defending a Houston free kick in their defensive half and before you could look up, United had taken a 2-0 lead. Brad Davis’ free kick flicked off of Espindola and redirected into the penalty area. Sean Franklin quickly cleared the ball up field to Espindola who was in acres of empty space. United’s talisman took off unopposed towards the Dynamo goal and scooped his shot over the hard-charging Deric just as Davis was trying to arrive on the scene. The ball easily slipped into the goal for Espindola’s tenth goal on the season to goal along with his nine assists.
However, after United had multiple chances to extend the lead to 3-0, Houston got back into the game in the 83rd minute when they were awarded a penalty when Franklin had taken down Dynamo midfielder Ricardo Clark. Englishman Giles Barnes stepped up and sent Bill Hamid the wrong way to cut the lead in half with just about seven minutes left in the match.
With nerves jangling knowing United’s putrid history in Houston (0-11-1 all time in all competitions heading into the match), the Black-and-Red have done what they’ve done virtually all season long – bounce back in a big way. With Houston pushing numbers forward, United caught the home side uneven on numbers as David Estrada starting the game-clinching sequence in the 87th minute. The substitute’s cross field pass from the left flank hit Franklin perfectly in stride as he arrived in the penalty area. Immediately Franklin settled the pass and pushed a delicate pass to Johnson at the penalty spot. The much-maligned striker took a touch and calmly slotted the ball past Deric to give United’s arguably it’s most important goal of the season. The goal was Johnson’s sixth of the season.
United fought off repeated challenges from the pesky Dynamo to scrape back into the game and salted it away officially when Hamid denied Clark from 20 yards out and at that point United finally had beaten the Houston Dynamo in Houston.
United will now turn their attention to their last home game of the season on Saturday night at RFK against the Chicago Fire, again needing only a draw to secure home-field advantage through the Eastern Conference playoffs, and more importantly a spot into the 2015-2016 version of the CONCACAF Champions League group stage next summer.