D.C. United started Sunday’s Eastern Conference finals opener in Houston as well as they could have hoped, scoring an early goal and putting the Dynamo under pressure to step up their play or risk a costly home result.
Little else went right for D.C. on Sunday.
It started with the injuries, which cost D.C. United Chris Pontius, Marcelo Saragosa and Brandon McDonal. Then there were some questionable calls that didn’t go there way, most notably a would-be foul on Andre Hainault that looked to be red card-worthy. Then came the Houston attack, which overwhelmed the battered D.C. defense with three second-half goals on their way to a 3-1 victory at BBVA Compass Stadium in the first leg of their West Final series.
Hainault opened the scoring for the Dynamo before Will Bruin scored his fourth goal of the playoffs. Defender Kofi Sarkodie provided the insurance goal with a beautiful finish in the 81st minute.
The victory gives Houston a two-goal cushion heading into the second leg at RFK Stadium next Sunday, the same sized cushion the Dynamo enjoyed on their way to a series victory against Sporting Kansas City in the East semifinals.
D.C. United started off brightly, with DeLeon slotting home a rebounded Lionard Pajoy shot. The shot deflected off a Dynamo defender, but counted just the same for D.C., which looked to have the home team on their heels.
Injuries ultimately wore down D.C., with Pontius forced to leave after just 12 minutes and Saragosa replaced in the 40th minute.
Perhaps more importantly than those injuries was a questionable no-call just before halftime that bailed out the Dynamo. Hainault and Raphael Augusto got tangled up going for the ball near the D.C. United penalty area, and replays showed that Hainault dragged down Augusto by the arm. Referee Ricardo Salazar missed the foul though
Now DC United will regroup as they suffer their first loss since losing reigning MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario to a knee injury in September. The status of De Rosario remains in question, along with Andy Najar and Chris Pontius. They will welcome back goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who was serving his suspension for the red card drawn in Thursday’s semifinal victory against the New York Red Bulls.
The second leg of the Eastern Conference final takes place at RFK Stadium next Sunday at 4 PM EST on NBC Sports.
What did you think of the match? Impressed with Houston? Think Salazar ruined the match? Should Hainault have been sent off, or was that a yellow card at best?
Share your thoughts below.