Houston Dynamo win in penalties over Real Salt Lake, will face Sporting KC in MLS Cup semifinals

The Houston Dynamo won in penalties 4-3 over Real Salt Lake on Saturday night to advance to the MLS Cup semifinals. Here’s what you need to know:

  • With penalties tied 3-3, RSL’s Danny Musovski missed, giving the Dynamo a chance to win and Griffin Dorsey capitalized, scoring the game-winning spot kick.
  • Corey Baird opened the scoring for Houston in the 28th minute, while Salt Lake midfielder Diego Luna responded with the tying goal in the 65th minute.
  • The Dynamo led RSL in shots (16-9), shots on target (5-3) and controlled the possession battle with 57 percent compared to Salt Lake’s 43 percent.
  • Houston will face Sporting KC in the MLS Cup semifinals, as Sporting KC knocked out No. 1 seed St. Louis City SC to advance to the semis.

How Houston did it

The Dynamo are among the league’s most adaptable teams and Saturday they eschewed some of their more attractive qualities to overcome a very motivated and very well-drilled Real Salt Lake side. Houston struggled to find the target throughout the evening and sometimes looked disconnected, hardly the hallmark of a club that’s developed one of the most cohesive midfield units in MLS.

Despite their struggles, the Dynamo remained defensively sound and weathered a late RSL charge to force penalties. It wasn’t an inspiring performance, but Houston’s play will likely do little to dampen expectations, as the Dynamo have taken the first few small steps in re-igniting fan interest in a long-dormant franchise. — Pablo Maurer, staff soccer writer

What’s next for RSL?

RSL will be bitterly disappointed with this loss but the club has pieces in place for a brighter future, and this year was by most accounts a success. Salt Lake finished just six points off conference-leading St. Louis when little was expected from them. They added star power in former LAFC attacker Chicho Arango plus youth and promise in multiple areas of the field.

Saturday’s goalscorer, U.S. youth international Luna, had a transformative campaign. RSL’s coach, former long-time MLS and USMNT defender Pablo Mastroeni, also evolved, showing a bit of adaptability and a little less reliance on destroying the game defensively. If Salt Lake can add a few more pieces, it’ll set itself up well for a deeper run next year. — Maurer

Looking ahead

Houston will meet Sporting Kansas City in the conference semifinals. On paper, it feels like a desirable matchup for the Dynamo but 8-seed SKC, who made the playoffs via the play-in game, made short work of regular-season Western Conference champions St. Louis City SC in the opening round. After a miserable start, SKC became one of the league’s most consistent sides and will likely prove a tough test for Houston.

The Dynamo, though, still feel like favorites against KC. — Maurer

Highlight of the match

Required reading

(Photo: Troy Taormina / USA Today)

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