PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — After Houston’s Dylan Remick scored he gestured to the Portland crowd with a “Who me?” shrug.
Remick had just learned earlier in the day that he was starting for the Dynamo for the second leg of the Western Conference semifinal against the top-seeded Timbers.
His first-half goal gave the Dynamo a crucial advantage and Houston went on to beat the Timbers 2-1 Sunday night to advance to the conference final. It was just the second goal of his career.
“I was pretty surprised myself,” said Remick, who started in place of injured defender DaMarcus Beasley. “It took a while for it to settle in. It was a good team effort on the goal, and the game in general.”
The teams played to a scoreless draw in the first leg in Houston on Monday. The goals gave the Dynamo a 2-1 advantage on aggregate, setting up the conference final against the Seattle Sounders.
Remick played for four seasons with the Sounders before coming to the Dynamo this season. He had appeared in 14 matches for Houston with 13 starts before Sunday night.
The Sounders, the defending MLS Cup champions, advanced 2-0 on aggregate against the Vancouver Whitecaps. The Eastern Conference finals will feature Toronto FC against the Columbus Crew, who each claimed their semifinals early Sunday.
“It’s rewarding for the players, it’s rewarding for the work that we’ve been doing,” Dynamo coach Wilmer Cabrera said. “Now we continue dreaming and thinking about the possibilities that are in front of us. We’re not on vacation yet.”
The Timbers were decimated by injuries going into the game and dealt a big blow on Saturday when defender Roy Miller ruptured an Achilles during training.
Midfielder Diego Chara broke a bone in his foot during the first leg on the chewed-up field in Houston. Fellow midfielder Darlington Nagbe injured his calf and center back Larrys Mabiala hurt his hip.
Portland was already without Fanendo Adi, who has been dealing with a lingering hamstring injury. Winger Sebastian Blanco didn’t play in the first leg after burning himself with boiling water while cooking. Defensive midfielder David Guzman also sat out the first match with a sprained knee.
Nagbe and Guzman started on Sunday, and Blanco came in early in the second half. But just about eight minutes into the game forward Darren Mattocks appeared to knock his head with a Houston player while going up for a ball. He was replaced by Jeremy Ebobisse.
“I can’t fault my guys. I told them after the game, in the five years I’ve been here, this was one of my most enjoyable years. It wasn’t just 15 wins and winning the West. Those were all real positives, which we’ll realize when the sting wears off,” Portland coach Caleb Porter said. “It was just being around this group of guys. This is a great group of guys and it’s a shame that we’re not able to move on, because I think we could have done something. Especially if we had 15 days or so to get some guys back and healthy and near full strength. We really thought we’d pull this off today.”
Houston was dealing with its own issues: Goalkeeper Tyler Deric was arrested Tuesday morning in connection with an alleged domestic incident. He was charged with misdemeanor assault and suspended by the league. MLS is working closely with the Dynamo and the Houston police during the investigation.
Deric started 26 games for the Dynamo this season with six shutouts. Joe Willis, who started in eight previous games this season, played in his place.
Beasley strained his right quadriceps in practice on Saturday. The Dynamo also were without defender A.J. DeLaGarza, who had surgery this past week to repair a torn ACL in his left knee. DeLaGarza was hurt on Oct. 22 in the 13th minute of Houston’s 3-0 victory over Chicago.
Willis made a tremendous diving save on Dairon Asprilla’s header in the 24th minute.
Asprilla broke through in the 39th minute, booting a cross from Vytas over Willis’ outstretched arm, then celebrating with a backflip. Asprilla had two goals and four assists this season.
Remick, who slipped on the Asprilla goal, scored in the 43rd minute, getting past Timbers’ goalkeeper Jeff Antinella and silencing the sellout crowd at Providence Park. The away goal was crucial for the Dynamo, because if the game ended in a 1-1 draw Houston would advance.
“Especially with the road-goal rule, we knew that if we kept a scoreless second half, then the game was ours,” Remick said. The longer we kept it 1-1, the longer they would have to throw numbers forward, which was perfect for us because we’re great on the counter-attack.
But Mauro Manotas made that moot with his goal from some 25 yards out in the 77th minute.