The Houston Dynamo took their first step on the path back to the MLS Cup final, dispatching the Chicago Fire 2-1 at Toyota Park to set up a conference semifinal appearance with Sporting Kansas City. Will Bruin led the way with a pair of goals, and Alex's late finish was not enough to drag the home side back into the game.
Houston quickly recovered from a poor start to take the lead. It came from -- surprise -- a Brad Davis set piece, the veteran midfielder delivering a swerving corner into the box. Chicago defender Jalil Anibaba slipped in the area, allowing Will Bruin a free look on goal. The 6-foot-2 forward didn't waste the golden opportunity, leaping up and powering the cross home with his head for the early 1-0 lead, the deflected ball sneaking past Sean Johnson at the near post.
Bruin struck again just after the restart. Pressing the Fire defense, Ricardo Clark forced a turnover, which Calen Carr fed into the path of the speeding Bruin. Picking his spot, the second-year forward finished coolly inside the lower far post.
Chicago should have pulled one back in the 71st minute, when Tally Hall mispunched Patrick Nyarko's cross onto the feet of Sherjill MacDonald at the far post, but the Dutchman could only hash his reflexive kick into a Dynamo defender when most of the goal was available to him.
But the Fire wouldn't have to wait too long to inject some life into the proceedings. Substitute Alex took an excellent long ball from Arne Friedrich out of the back and picked out the far corner of Tally Hall's net to give Chicago a lifeline.
The Brazilian midfielder wasn't quite as clinical a few minutes later when presented with a good opportunity to snag an equalizer. A miskick from Corey Ashe allowed Dominic Oduro to jam a pass to Alex at the edge of the area, but given the chance to tee up, he made a mess of the attempt.
The result of the one-off playoff game puts Chicago out, and Houston will next face top seed Sporting Kansas City if it is to return to Major League Soccer's showpiece event for the second year running.
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