D.C. United threatened the long home undefeated run of the Houston Dynamo on Sunday in the first leg of the Eastern Conference finals, and the hosts had an emphatic response.
Andre Hainault, Will Bruin and Kofi Sarkodie scored after half as Houston beat D.C. United, 3-1, to stay unbeaten at BBVA Compass Stadium and take control of their two-legged conference final series.
Now the Dynamo are just 90 minutes from a return trip to the MLS Cup. But they will have to take care of business on the road.
Houston will visit D.C. for the second match on Nov. 18, when United will need to overturn the two-goal deficit to deny the Dynamo a place in the Cup. United will host the Cup if it wins, while Houston will visit the Western finalist.
Nick DeLeon scored for United, which last lost at home in its season opener against Sporting Kansas City in early March - a stretch of 17 matches at RFK Stadium.
Just 1-9-2 when allowing the first goal during the regular season, Houston had its back against the wall after DeLeon converted a rebound in the 27th minute for his second goal of the playoffs.
Coupled with United being a perfect 7-0-0 when it led at halftime, the 26-game unbeaten streak dating back to last year at home for Houston was under threat by D.C.
But Houston survived a questionable non-call late in the first half when D.C. substitute Raphael Augusto was knocked down by Hainault on a last-man chance.
Hainault added to the frustration of D.C. coach Ben Olsen, who was upset about the non-call, when he pulled Houston level with a goal from six yards in the 51st.
Dynamo defender Bobby Boswell cleared a shot from United forward Lionard Pajoy off the line in the 66th, and Bruin followed on the other end when he drilled home a rebound for his fourth goal of the playoffs in the 68th.
Sarkodie forced a good save from United goalkeeper Joe Willis in the 77th, and beat the backup - playing for suspended Bill Hamid - in the 81st when he was sent into the area by Luiz Camargo and hammered a shot far post.
Houston maintained its two-goal advantage, as it won the first-ever postseason match between the clubs with a combined six MLS Cup titles - four for D.C. and two for Houston.