Houston Dynamo edge Sporting KC to reach West final

ByField Level Media ESPN logo
Monday, November 27, 2023

Franco Escobar scored on a corner-kick header late in the first half to lift the Houston Dynamo to a 1-0 victory over visiting Sporting Kansas City in Sunday's Western Conference semifinal.

Escobar's fourth career playoff goal lifts Houston into its first conference final since 2017, which was also the Dynamo's last postseason appearance. The fourth-seeded Dynamo will visit the winner of No. 2 Seattle against No. 3 LAFC.

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Steve Clark made three saves to keep his first clean sheet of the postseason after Houston conceded one goal in each of their three Round One series games against Real Salt Lake.

Kansas City departs the postseason after sweeping top-seeded St. Louis in their first-round series and prevailing on penalties over the San Jose Earthquakes in the Western Conference wild-card game.

Sporting was the first team to earn a playoff berth after failing to win its first 10 league matches.

After a first half with chances on both ends, Escobar finally headed Houston into the lead in the 39th minute.

Hector Herrera delivered an inswinging corner kick from the right toward the penalty spot. And Escobar outmuscled Jacob Davis to win the duel and send a header past the sprawling Tim Melia.

Sporting Kansas City thought they should've had a chase to level from the penalty spot just two minutes after going behind.

Goalkeeper Steve Clark denied Alan Pulido's first one-on-one effort, but when the rebound fell to Daniel Salloi on the left side of the penalty area, his shot appeared to strike the arm of Erik Sviatchenko on the goal line.

The play was checked by video assistant referee Carol Anne Chenard, but not referred to referee Guido Gonzalez Jr. for an on-field review.

Houston's best chance to put the game out of reach came in the 64th minute when Melia took the ball off the foot of Corey Baird in alone on goal.

Five minutes later, Clark sprung to his left to make an excellent save of Salloi's well-struck half-volley.

Kansas City tried to push numbers forward late in search of an equalizer, but Houston looked more likely to score late, with Melia forced into another excellent stop in second-half stoppage time from substitute Aliyu Ibrahim.

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