WASHINGTON - After reaching the last two MLS Cup Finals, the Houston Dynamo are back in the playoffs. That might be bad news for the rest of the league.
Boniek Garcia and Giles Barnes scored in the first half and Houston beat D.C. United 2-1 on Sunday to wrap up a playoff spot on the final day of the season.
Despite just qualifying for the post-season, confidence is high for Houston.
"I don't think we're a team that you necessarily want to play," defender Bobby Boswell said. "I don't think we're a team that people are saying, 'Oh we're matched up with Dynamo — good.' It's kind of one of those, 'Oh boy, what are we in for.'"
D.C. United (3-24-7) was winless in its final 12 games and set the MLS record for fewest victories in a season, breaking the previous mark of four set by Tampa Bay in 2001 and matched by Chivas USA in 2005.
The Dynamo are the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and will host Montreal in the knockout match on Wednesday or Thursday.
Houston finished fifth last season and won three consecutive playoff series on the road before eventually falling to Los Angeles in the MLS Cup.
"I think that play-in game can make you dangerous," Boswell said referring to last year's run.
Captain Brad Davis, whose shot in the first half resulted in the corner kick that provided the winning goal, echoed his teammate's belief.
"I do feel like last year the run that we made — that play-in game - did help us," Davis said. "We wanted to get back on the field as quick as possible."
Garcia scored his third goal of the season, converting a penalty kick in the 11th minute. Houston (14-11-9) earned the spot kick after defender James Riley pulled down Giles Barnes inside the box.
United tied it in the 27th minute when Kyle Porter headed home Chris Pontius' cross at the far post right. It was Porter's third goal of the season, tying him for the team high.
Houston pulled ahead in the 39th minute when Barnes flicked home a header on a corner kick. Barnes finished the season with a team-high nine goals.
Houston has qualified for the playoffs seven times in the club's eight-year history and made four appearances in the MLS Cup.
Davis has been a part of each Dynamo playoff run and takes pride in the fact that his team is well respected this time of year.
"I actually read to the group that somebody from D.C. said that you know when you play Houston it's going to be a battle," Davis said.
"They never look forward to playing us because they know it's going to be hard and it's going to be difficult. So when other teams are saying that, it's a good thing."