Dynamo stop Impact to gain East semis
HOUSTON -- Will Bruin scored twice and Boniek Garcia added a goal to give the Houston Dynamo a 3-0 win over the Montreal Impact in the Eastern Conference knockout round of the MLS Cup playoffs Thursday night.
The game ended with an altercation when Marco Di Vaio, Montreal's leading scorer, and substitute Andres Romero got into a shoving match with several Houston players that resulted in the ejection of Di Vaio and Romero. The Impact already had played the final 20 minutes with 10 players after defender Nelson Rivas was given his second yellow card of the game in the 70th minute.
Romero appeared to elbow and kick Houston defender Kofi Sarkodie in the near corner, close to the Montreal net. That started a sequence that featured several shoves and even more shouting.
Di Vaio, Romero and Rivas will be suspended for the Impact's first regular-season game in 2014.
"Even at the end there, cooler heads prevailed and it's important that we did because the game on Sunday," said Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear.
Fourth-seeded Houston advanced to play the top-seeded New York Red Bulls. The Dynamo will host New York in the first game of the two-leg, aggregate-goals Eastern Conference semifinals on Sunday.
"It has been a long season, and of course we are tired," Montreal coach Marco Schallibaum said. "But that is no excuse for what happened."
In the 16th minute, Bruin received a backheel pass from Ricardo Clark, found some space just inside the box and ripped home his fifth career playoff goal. Bruin scored four goals in Houston's run to the MLS Cup final last year.
"The one thing about this group, the attention to detail once the playoffs starts, it grows minute by minute and they prepare themselves to give themselves the best chance possible," Kinnear said.
Justin Mapp had a chance to even the score in the 18th minute, but his shot just missed the right post after Bobby Boswell turned the ball over in the far corner. Houston goalie Tally Hall made four saves and recorded his fourth postseason shutout.
"I try to prepare for every game as it is the MLS Cup Final, so I feel like I've played 34 playoff games in the regular season," Hall said. "Today I dial it in the same as I try to be my best in every game. I don't know what the difference is in playoff time, but this team responds very well."
Garcia converted a penalty kick in the 27th minute after Hernan Bernardello tripped him in the box. Bruin added his second goal in the 72nd minute with an assist from Corey Ashe.
Troy Perkins made five saves for the Impact, who were in the MLS playoffs for the first time after entering the league before the 2012 season. As late as Sept. 8, they were tied for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
"Their first goal was just a broken play," Perkins said. "They tried to play through and the defender tried to stop the ball instead of clearing it and Will Bruin heads onto it with a good finish. We just need to remember the feeling of losing and let that drive us next year."
In the 61st minute Montreal leading scorer Marco Di Vaio nearly cut the lead in half with a hard, low shot, but Hall dove in front of the shot to preserve the two-goal lead.