KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Sporting Kansas City overcame an early scare to finally get past its postseason nemesis.
After being bounced from the Eastern Conference playoffs by Houston in each of the past two seasons, Sporting fell behind the Dynamo 1-0 in the third minute on Saturday night in the second leg of the Eastern Conference final. But with a first-half equalizer from C.J. Sapong and Dom Dwyer's game-winner in the 63rd minute, Sporting advanced to its first MLS Cup Final since 2004 with a 2-1 victory.
"We didn't panic," Dwyer said. "We kept on doing what we do, and we got the result we wanted. We're happy right now, but we're very much focused on two weeks' time. We're going to enjoy it, and it's extra motivation to have MLS Cup at home."
Kansas City will play host to either Portland or Real Salt Lake on Dec. 7. Sporting and the Dynamo played to a scoreless draw two weeks ago in the first leg of the conference final.
Houston, the runner-up in 2011 and 2012, will miss the title game for the first time in three years.
"I think as far as this series, we deserved it," Sporting manager Peter Vermes said. "We played smart and I think we showed real maturity. Three years ago I think we were very new to this when we played them in the same situation. We were very new, in everything. I even think our fans were new to it. There was a lot of apprehension that year, but I think this year was very different. I think the players understood the task at hand. Even though they scored early, we never panicked."
Houston midfielder Brad Davis acknowledged being disappointed to not make it back to a third straight final, but said it was an accomplishment for the Dynamo to get as far as they did after finishing fourth in the East during the regular season.
"It's very difficult. I'm unbelievably proud to be a part of this team," Davis said. "I feel like people were counting us out a long time ago and we kept plugging away. That's what this team does."
The Dynamo scored on a goal from Oscar Boniek Garcia, whose shot deflected off center back Matt Besler after a pass from Davis.
Sapong responded in the 14th minute, scoring from short range after Houston defender Bobby Boswell misplayed Graham Zusi's through ball. Dwyer's decisive goal came after a precise through ball from Benny Feilhaber, with Dwyer finishing low past Dynamo keeper Tally Hall.
"That was one of the classier goals you'll see," Hall said. "His cut and finish made for one of the better goals I've seen this year."