The Seattle Sounders have a significant upper hand in their Western Conference final after beating the Houston Dynamo 2-0 at BBVA Compass Stadium on Tuesday night.
The defending champions got off to a dream start when Gustav Svensson powered a header past Joe Willis following a Nicolas Lodeiro corner in the 11th minute to give Seattle a 1-0 lead and an important away goal.
Seattle could have doubled its lead before the half-hour when Jalil Anibaba pushed Joevin Jones to the ground in the penalty area only for Lodeiro to see Willis save the ensuing spot kick.
However, Anibaba was given a red card for denying a clear goal-scoring opportunity and that left Houston to play the final 60-plus minutes of the match with 10 men.
The Dynamo's wretched first half continued when former Houston player Will Bruin met a Jones cross and headed in his team's second goal past a helpless Willis just before half-time.
Against the odds and the run of play, Houston almost found a goal early in the second half when Mauro Manotas beat his defender and was in on goal only to fire his shot wide of the Seattle net.
Jones set up Lodeiro for a potential series-ending third away goal, but the Uruguayan's curling first-time shot from the top of the penalty area narrowly missed the mark.
The man disadvantage was simply too much for the hard-fighting Dynamo to overcome and Seattle held on to see out the victory without much fuss.
Seattle will host Houston in the second leg at CenturyLink Field on Thursday, Nov. 30, to decide which team will represent the West in MLS Cup.