Houston Dynamo advance to Conference semifinals over RSL in penalty kicks

Houston Dynamo’s 2023 season continues to get better and better after their 1-1 (4-3) triumph over Real Salt Lake to reach the Western Conference semifinals in MLS Cup playoffs.

Dynamo striker Corey Baird kicked things off in the 28th minute in what was a spectacular team goal for the home side. A cross from out wide found midfielder Hector Herrera, who headed the ball onto the path of Baird who put enough power on the strike to beat RSL’s Zac MacMath from close range.

Like game two, Salt Lake found an equalizer in the second half to make things interesting. Diego Luna, who scored in game one, found the back of the net after an excellent cross from Bryan Oviedo. Luna’s headed effort was textbook, as he directed in into the ground with power, leaving Steve Clark with no chance keeping it out of goal.

The two sides traded a few successful penalty conversions and misses during the shootout, with Houston’s Griffin Dorsey scoring the decisive attempt to setup a Conference semifinal clash with Sporting Kansas City.

“Just a great night for the organization,” Houston first-year head coach Ben Olsen said after the win.

“To move past [the first round] and continue this ride that has been really enjoyable for the players, myself and the staff. I think our fans have really enjoyed this year and nobody really wanted this to end, so now we have another opportunity to keep the train rolling.”

Olsen, who took over a Dynamo team in the offseason that hasn’t finished in a playoff spot since 2017, believes the way the team has gelled over the course of the season was been a huge factor to their ascent up the Western Conference table ahead of the postseason.

“… When you get a group that gels in that way and the culture on and off the field — that doesn’t aways happen. But we also have good players, we’ve got a really nice roster that Pat [Onstad] and Asher [Mendelsohn] put together in the offseason and gave me a lot to work with.”

Houston are now just one of the four remaining teams in the Western Conference, joining LAFC, Seattle Sounders and their semifinal opponents Sporting KC.

“Kansas City is going to be a whole different type of animal, and we have to take a look at them and see what that looks like … we will enjoy this now and get back to work in a few days,” said Olsen.

The two teams will go head-to-head in a single elimination game on November 25 at Shell Energy Stadium, with the winner advancing to take on either Seattle or LAFC in the Western Conference final.

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