Dynamo blank Sporting KC 1-0 to advance to Western Conference Final

Houston Dynamo head coach Ben Olsen acknowledges the crowd as he comes onto the pitch before an MLS playoff soccer match against Sporting Kansas City, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)(AP/Michael Wyke)

HOUSTON (AP) — Defender Franco Escobar scored a first-half goal, Steve Clark posted a clean sheet and the Houston Dynamo beat Sporting Kansas City 1-0 on Sunday night to advance to the Western Conference Final.

No. 4 seed Houston (15-11-9), in its first season with Ben Olsen at the helm, advances to play the winner of Sunday’s other semifinal match between the No. 2 seed Seattle Sounders and defending champion and third-seeded Los Angeles FC next Saturday. No matter who the Dynamo play next it will be on the road.

Escobar used an assist from Héctor Herrera to send a header into the top left corner of the net in the 39th minute and the Dynamo took a 1-0 lead into halftime. Escobar notched his fourth career postseason goal and his first in his first season with Houston. He spent last season with LAFC and scored three goals for Atlanta United in the 2018-19 playoffs.

Clark finished with three saves to earn his first shutout this postseason after collecting 12 clean sheets during the regular season. He has four career postseason shutouts — two with the Portland Timbers in 2021 and one with the Columbus Crew in 2015.

Tim Melia stopped two shots for eighth-seeded Sporting KC (12-15-8). SKC advanced to the semis by sweeping expansion St. Louis City — the regular-season conference champions — in the first round.

Olsen, who had a 10-year run as coach of United, and his Dynamo have been the hottest team since the Leagues Cup break with a record of 10-1-6 in all competitions, including two shootout victories and a US Open Cup title. The only blemish in the streak was a 2-1 loss to Sporting KC on Sep. 23.

The home side has won eight of the last 10 matchups with two draws. The last win by the road team was Sporting KC’s 2-1 victory in October of 2020.

Sporting KC has just two outright wins in 28 all-time playoff matches on the road and that includes the club’s 4-1 victory over St. Louis City this postseason.

Houston has advanced in five of the last six postseason matchups in the series. Sporting KC’s lone win came in the 2013 Eastern Conference Final on its way to winning the MLS Cup.


AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

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