By DAN KARELL
The Houston Dynamo sent a warning shot to the rest of Major League Soccer on Thursday. They mean business.
In a near-complete performance at BBVA Stadium on Halloween, the Houston Dynamo routed the Montreal Impact, 3-0, moving on to the Eastern Conference semifinals where they’ll play the New York Red Bulls. Dynamo forward Will Bruin scored a brace to lead his side to victory as the Impact finished the game with eight men after three second-half red cards.
Impact forward Marco Di Vaio, who had a frustrating night along with the rest of his squad, was whistled for being offside twice inside five minutes. Yet in the 16th minute, it was the host Dynamo who found the breakthrough.
Bruin, who dropped deep to receive a pass, dribbled into space before finding teammate Ricardo Clark outside of the box. Clark held up the ball well and played a nifty back-heel pass into Bruin’s path, which took the 25-year-old forward into the box. Once there, Bruin only had to set himself before sending a curling strike past Impact goalkeeper Troy Perkins for the lead.
In the 26th minute, Dynamo midfielder Oscar Boniek Garcia dribbled between three Impact defenders and just as he entered the penalty area, Impact midfielder Hernan Bernardello took down Garcia, giving referee Mark Geiger no choice but to point to the spot. One minute later, Garcia put the penalty kick away to give his side a two-goal lead.
Impact head coach Marco Schallibaum made an interesting decision to start Nelson Rivas in place of Alessandro Nesta in central defense, despite the fact that Rivas didn’t play in a game all season. Rivas was shown a yellow card for a dangerous challenge on Giles Barnes, foreshadowing more events in the second half involving Rivas.
The Impact nearly cut the deficit in half two minutes before time as Di Vaio timed a run to perfection and tried to chip Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall, but the veteran goalkeeper made himself big and parried away the chip attempt.
A second clumsy if not dangerous challenge from Rivas saw him immediately shown a second yellow card and subsequent red card in the 70th minute, reducing the Impact to ten men while they still trailed by two. And only two minutes later, Bruin capitalized on an error from Impact defender Matteo Ferrari, stealing the ball away from him, rounding Perkins, and scoring into an open net to put the match away.
The game took a nasty turn late as emotions boiled over on both sides, with three cards being shown in the 89th minute. The Impact came off much worse from a scuffle near the corner flag, as Marco Di Vaio and Andres Romero were each dismissed, while Corey Ashe of the Dynamo was shown a yellow card.
One minute later, Geiger put the whistle to his lips, ending the contest and condemning the Impact to their seventh loss in the last ten matches. The Dynamo meanwhile will host the Red Bulls on Sunday and travel to Red Bull Arena next Wednesday, facing a team that swept the season series for the first time in club history.