HOUSTON — In the 40th minute of the Seattle Sounders' 2-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo a paper airplane drifted onto the field of BBVA Compass Stadium. Less than a minute later, just before Will Bruin doubled the visitors' lead, a second drifted in and stuck into the grass, nose down. A perfect hit. It was the most joy Dynamo fans felt all night.
The Dynamo ran into the reigning champion and couldn't cope Tuesday. A penalty save from Joe Willis in the 28th minute could've been the turning point, but Bruin's goal against his old team gave the Sounders two away goals that sealed the Dynamo's fate and all but ended the Texas team's season. The second leg takes place Nov. 30, but in front of a rowdy crowd in Seattle, it will take a miracle for the Dynamo to make the MLS Cup final.
Joevin Jones had won the penalty, streaking down the left side and drawing the foul from Jalil Anibaba that resulted in the spot kick and a red card for denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity. Whether it was Anibaba, Adolfo Machado or Dylan Remick at right back for Houston on Tuesday, the formula repeated.
Even though the penalty was unsuccessful, attacking down the left flank had yielded loads of success. The Sounders already had won a corner after an attack down the left and then converted the first goal when Jones set up Bruin with a picturesque cross before the halftime break.
"I think in the first half we had two plays where Joevin Jones and [left back Nouhou Tolo] combined. One was the penalty and the other was winning the corner kick that led to the first goal. I think from there we felt really comfortable," Sounders midfielder Nicolas Lodiero told Goal. "After that, with a man advantage, the spaces were bigger and we were able to play a bit more calm."
Jones and Tolo pushed up and created danger with no Dynamo defender able to stop them or wide attacker able to keep them honest. Lodeiro and Clint Dempsey floated over to help overload the left side of attack as the Sounders kept hammering away in the quest for a third goal.
"I like the pair of Nouhou and Joevin Jones. I think both of them are pretty dynamic, although in different ways," Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said in his post-match news conference. "Nouhou is all power and speed and Joevin has a bit more subtlety to his game. I think what you find is when Dempsey plays in between the lines and Nico goes over there and you have overloads on that side of the fields, it creates problems for the opposing defense."
Already down a defender because of Anibaba's red card, Dynamo coach Wilmer Cabrera's night got worse when Philippe Senderos came out of the contest because of an injury just before the hour mark. It meant two of Cabrera's three substitutions had been spent repairing his defense.
That left little room to bring on an attacker to create, or to spell forward Alberth Elis, who returned to training Friday after playing for Honduras halfway across the world last week in an unsuccessful effort to qualify for the World Cup. Elis will have an enforced rest next week, though, after drawing a yellow card that leaves him suspended for the second leg in Seattle.
His club and international teammate Romell Quioto finally was able to enter the match in the 72nd minute, but he saw few opportunities as the Sounders were able to keep their shape aside from the occasional break on the counterattack. The third goal never came, though the Sounders did come close when Victor Rodriguez hit the bar late
At least Dynamo fans — an announced crowd of 22,661 of them, a stadium record — can take consolation in that, and in how far they were able to make the card stock handed out for the pre-match display fly once they realized their team's season was coming to an end.