Houston shrugged off a poor away record to race into a two-goal lead against the Fire thanks to a brace from Will Bruin.
Chicago rallied late on and reduced the deficit when Alex scored eight minutes from time. Houston hung on in the closing stages to advance to the Eastern Conference semi-finals for the third consecutive season.
12.43amGood morning all. Thanks for joining us here at Sports Mole and welcome to live coverage of Major League Soccer's post-season extravaganza.
12.44amWe are just under 20 minutes away from kickoff at Toyota Park as reigning Eastern Conference champions Houston Dynamo prepare to face the Chicago Fire in what promises to be an intense knockout tie.
12.48amThe Fire earned home advantage tonight by virtue of a superior regular season record, finishing four points ahead of Houston in the East.
12.50amDyanmo enter this contest on the back of a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Colorado Rapids last weekend. An improved performance is imperative under the pressure of post-season play.
12.52amLet's take a look at tonight's starting lineups as the teams finish their pre-match preparations.
12.57amThe only major surprise is Chicago's decision to name Patrick Nyarko ahead of Corben Bone on the wing.
1.00amHouston have opted for the tried and tested 4-4-2 formation which has served them well in important matches, with Will Bruin partnering Calen Carr in attack.
1.02amWe are minutes away from kickoff now at Toyota Park, two former champions facing off with a place in the Eastern Conference final four at steak.
1.04amChicago will be relying on top scorer Chris Rolfe to guide them to victory.
1.06amRolfe scored eight goals in the regular season, flourishing in his second spell with the Fire.
1.08amThe Fire have a settled team and have opted to name the same side that started the 1-1 draw with DC United just three days ago.
1.13amKickoff is slightly later than expected over at Toyota Park. Expect the playoffs to get underway shortly!
1.15amThe play-off format has been given a welcome tweak this season to allow East and West to stay apart until the final in December. The winner of tonight's match will face a two-legged tie against Sporting Kansas City.
1.18amGerman international defender Arne Friedrich is without doubt an integral part of the Fire's playoff plans. Keeping the veteran fit is key to their hopes of an extended post-season run.
1.20amFriedrich is fit to start for Chicago tonight in their first home match in the playoffs since 2009.
1.21amHouston have a miserable recent record against the Fire, failing to beat tonight's opponents for the last two seasons.
1.23amChicago endured an alarming dip in form during the second half of the regular season, slipping to fourth place in the Eastern Conference despite a strong start.
1.25amMajor League Soccer's attitude towards punctuality continues to frustrate me into the post-season. A 1.00am kickoff UK time has slipped back by at least 30 minutes. Toyota Park is fashionably late to begin play-off proceedings.
1.27amSports Mole will be your destination for every game in the MLS from here on in as the search hots up to crown a 2012 MLS Cupchampion.
1.28amAh, looks like kickoff is finally here, both teams are out on the pitch. It's playoff time football fans. Might sound a little strange, don't fight it. Excitement guaranteed.
1.29amJust a reminder that tonight is a straight knockout tie, no second chances.
1.32amBoth sides opt for a pre-match huddle and better late than never we are good to go.
1.33amToyota Park is far from full but the atmosphere still sounds impressive.
1 minWe are underway, Houston kickoff in their unmistakable Orange strip.
2 minA horrendous pass from Brad Davis hands possession to Patrick Nyarko in a dangerous possession but the pacy winger is unable to take advantage.
3 minHouston have definitely reverted to a 4-4-2 formation in order to combat Chicago's width and stop their supply to star striker Chris Rolfe.
4 minThe first foul of the match hands the visitors a set-piece opportunity. Davis crosses and Sean Johnson flaps at the ball before clearing at the second time of asking.
5 minJohnson is in trouble again, only parrying an effort from distance. Will Bruin chased in but a last-ditch tackle stopped a certain goal.
7 minHouston continue to exert early pressure but their spell of possession is interrupted by a foul from Ricardo Clark.
8 minJalil Anibaba finds some space out wide for Chicago, cutting inside before curling an effort wide of the far post.
10 minChicago are back in the ascendancy. Alvaro Fernandez jinks is way into the area but can only tap a tame effort into the hands of Tally Hall.
11 minCorner for Houston, Will Bruin heads home unmarked for the opening goal. All too easy
GOAL!A perfect delivery from Brad Davis found Bruin with time and space in the six-yard box and he makes no mistake with a simple header.
BruinI think we're going to try and take some of the credit for that opening goal after picking Bruin as our image prior to kickoff. A coincidence, I don't think so.
15 minChicago need to bounce back quickly from that disappointing start. A normally watertight home defence breached in the opening 15 minutes.
17 minA replay of that opening goal clearly shows Bruins marker slipped as he tried to match the forward's run. Cruel luck on Anibaba and the Fire.
18 minChicago defender Arne Freidrich finds himself in space in the penalty area but his firm header is at a good height for Hall who makes the easy save.
19 minHouston enjoy a nice spell of possession in central midfield but Ricardo Clark can't pick out the run of Colin Clark in the final third.
20 minChicago break quickly and find Patrick Nyarko in acres of space out wide. His teasing cross drifts across the six-yard box but is turned behind by Hall for a corner.
22 minHouston clear the corner quickly and launch an attack of their own. Clark runs more than 30 yards with the ball but shoots harmlessly wide from distance.
23 minDynamo get the back on the ball quickly and have a corner. Davis whips in another dangerous cross but this time Johnson punches away to safety with minimal fuss.
24 minSherjill McDonald tries to pick out Nyarko in the box but misses narrowly with an inviting through ball.
26 minJust a reminder that tonight's match must be played to a finish tonight. Extra time and penalties will be used if required.
27 minBruin is found in space for Houston but his first touch is heavy, allowing Freidrich to make a vital interception.
28 minChicago are struggling to get their creative players time on the ball in a congested midfield.
29 minThe home crowd protest loudly as a throw goes Houston's way. Referee Baldomero Toledo is having none of it.
31 minBrad Davis dummies perfectly found Anibaba to force an easy foul. Dangerous free-kick chance here for Houston.
33 minCalen Carr lurks at the back post but can't make the most of another strong delivery. Houston are in the driving seat, much to the annoyance of the home crowd.
36 minNyarko drives at Jermaine Taylor and wins a free-kick for Chicago just yards outside of the penalty area. Big chance here for the Fire to level.
37 minRolfe recovers a poor-set piece to put the ball back into danger. Houston clear but only for a corner.
38 minAnother disappointing delivery ruins a spell of Chicago pressure as Houston clear easily. Chance missed for the home side.
40 minMcDonald moved further forward and controls the ball deep into the penalty area but his layoff can't find Rolfe. Much more encouraging for Chicago before the break.
41 minHouston threaten again on the break as Boniek Garcia uses his pace to win a corner after running the full length of the pitch before being challenged.
42 minA chance goes begging for Houston as they get another free header from a corner whipped in by Davis. This time Bobby Boswell is the guilty party as he fires over from close range.
43 minHouston keep the ball brilliantly deep in the opposition half before a burst of pace from Corey Ashe finds him space out wide. He curls in a cross which is turned behind for another Dynamo corner.
45 minInto stoppage time at the end of the first half, just one minute to be added on as Houston continue to dominate possession.
Half TimeThe first half comes to a close with Houston meriting their one-goal advantage. Chicago need to find a dramatic improvement after the break to keep their season alive.
2.21amChicago have shot themselves in the foot throughout the first 45 minutes with poor defending from set pieces.
2.23amHouston profited from slack marking to score the opening goal after 12 minutes when Will Bruin turned home a superb delivery from Brad Davis.
2.25amWas this another example of zonal marking failing miserably I hear you ask? Afraid not, very much a man-to-man problem in the Chicago defence. Basic errors that will infuriate Fire coach Frank Klopas.
2.26amA quick news item from the MLS playoffs as we wait for the second half. New York Red Bulls have been forced to switch their first-leg match against DC United later this week following the effects of Hurricane Sandy.
2.28amThe Red Bulls will now visit DC in the first leg before moving back to New York for the return game next week.
2.29amWhile we pause for breath at Toyota Park why not catch up with a night of drama from the Capital One Cup.
2.31amChelsea and Manchester United did their best to top Arsenal's incredible match against Reading when they met at Stamford Bridge earlier tonight. The Blues eventually prevailed in extra time by a surreal scoreline of five goals to four.
GOAL!The Fire fall asleep in possession and Houston take fall advantage. Ricardo Clark wins possession in midfield and passes to Calen Carr. He slips in Will Bruin, who finishes cooly for his second of the night. A crazy start to the second half.
47 minChicago try to respond quickly but can't make the most of a corner kick.
48 minRicardo Clark has stayed down after clearing the corner. An awkward landing for the tenacious midfielder who requires treatment.
49 minToyota Park is absolutely stunned to see their trail by a two-goal deficit. A huge ask now for Chicago to keep their season alive.
50 minAlvaro Fernandez crosses for Patrick Nyarko but he is off balance and connects poorly from close range. Chance missed for Chicago
52 minNyarko finds space and cuts back for Alex, who lashes wide from the edge of the penalty area.
53 minAnother chance in quick succession for the Fire. Nyarko picks up the ball again but a great sliding challenge from Kofi Sarkodie averts danger.
55 minSherjill MacDonald tries to race onto a long pass but his pace is not enough to meet the ball.
56 minNyarko begins another slalom run into Houston territory before being brought down by Sarkodie.
60 minFire can't create a chance from the free kick at the second time of asking but Arne Freidrich's shot is well saved by Hall.
62 minOduro nearly has an instant impact, racing into the penalty area before being stopped in his tracks by the committed Sarkodie.
65 minHouston continue to frustrate Chicago in the final third with some spirited defending. Oduro's pace in behind has definitely given the Fire a more direct outlet in this second half.
67 minAlex picks up the ball in central midfield but he is quickly crowded out by a swarm of Houston defenders. They win the ball and play in Calen Carr, who fires wide from close range.
68 minCarr is in behind again just a minute later. He drives into the area before forcing a good save from Sean Johnson from an acute angle.
70 minIt's Houston on the attack again but Bruin slips in the area just as he seems destined to complete his hat trick.
72 minChicago break and come close to reducing the deficit. Tally Hall misses a cross but MacDonald's shot is stopped from going into an empty net by a last-ditch block from Dynamo.
73 minEnd-to-end stuff in the closing stages as Houston go back on the offensive with an effort from Boniek Garcia before Chicago respond to force Hall into a smart save.
76 minAlex has struggled to get on the ball all night for Chicago as he is brought down by Bruin for a free kick. More frustration for Chicago.
Chicago SubA last throw of the dice for Chicago as the send on Daniel Paladini.
Houston Double SubDynamo make two changes to their attacking options in an effort to freshen things up. Bruin and Carr are replaced by Brian Ching and Macoumba Kandji.
80 minKandji nearly has an impact. He races into the penalty area unmarked but can only lash the ball at Johnson from close range.
GOALChicago ensure a grandstand finish with a well-worked goal. Freidrich knocks the ball over the top to Alex, who gets in behind before fishing neatly. Game On!
83 minThe home side nearly repeat the trick with their next attack as MacDonald tries to bring down a long ball. Hall comes out quickly to quell the danger.
85 minAustin Berry throws to Fernandez near the corner flag but the tricky winger is unable to cross into the area. Time running out for the Fire.
86 minRolfe dinks the ball over a tired Houston defence but once again MacDonald is unable to take advantage.
88 minNyarko races down the touchline but loses control before bundling into Sarkodie to force an injury stoppage.
89 minAduro does brilliantly to pick out Alex in space on the edge of the area but a horrible miscue sees the chance go begging.
90 minTally Hall is booked for wasting time as the fourth official signals four minutes of stoppage time.
91 minRolfe crosses deep into the Houston penalty area but Dynamo clear into touch and eventually regain possession.
93 minNyarko finds MacDonald but his flick on fails to find Berry in the penalty area. Seconds left on the clock at Toyota Park.
94 minAduro drives down the wing and forces a foul from Brad Davis. Last chance and the keeper is coming forward.
95 minPaladini takes but his cross is cleared to safety. Rolfe recovers the situation but his shot floats harmlessly wide.
Full TimeHall takes the goal kick and with that the match is over. Houston overcome a poor away record to advance to an Eastern Conference semi-final against Sporting Kansas City.
3.28pmChicago rallied in the closing stages but in truth it came too late. Houston controlled possession for much of the match and were good value for their 2-1 victory.
3.31amWill Bruin did the damage for Dynamo, scoring a clinical brace to move the Orange Crush into the last eight in the post-season.
3.33amHouston will now host Kansas City in the first of a two-legged tie on Sunday.
3.35amThanks for joining us here at Sports Mole as the MLS playoffs began with a flourish. Be sure to check in for regular updates throughout November as the race hots up to crown the 2012 MLS Cup champion.