MIAMI – One stylish, one purely result oriented.
Houston Dynamo and the New England Revolution took different paths to reach MLS Cup 2006 to be played in Frisco, TX Sunday at 3:30EST (ABC).
New England will be making its third apperance in MLS’ Showcase Showdown while Houston, in its first year of existence after moving from San Jose where they won two MLS Cups, will be looking to bring a title to Houston for the first time in 11 years.
EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS:
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
How advanced: def. Chicago Fire 2-2 on aggregate, 4-2 on penalties; def. DC United 1-0 Outlook: After two heartbreaking MLS Cup will the third time be the charm?
It’s almost never pretty. But more often than not, it’s effective.
The New England Revolution scored early through Taylor Twelman’s 4th mintue goal then had to hold on as DC United played its best match in months and dominated the rest of the match.
18-6 total shots. 8-1 shots on goal. 9 corner kicks to 1.
But in the end, New England had Matt Reis and DC didn’t. Reis saved all eight shots on goal and marshalled the defense, leading the Revolution to its 2nd straight apperance in MLS Cup before over 19,000 Red and Black fans at RFK stadium.
Therein lies the cruelty and uniquness of this game. Only one statistic truly matters, the scoreboard.
Jay Heaps got the lone scoring play going with a long pass up the right sideline to Pat Noonan who created some space centered the ball to Twelman. The World Cup alternated lashed home the finish and provided a dream start for New England. Now all they had to do was withstand a DC onslaught which came in wave after wave.
Freddy Adu and Christain Gomez both forced saves out of Reis. Jamie Moreno headed an Adu cross off the cross bar. Bobby Boswell headed another potential goal off the bar as well. Moreno narowwly missed a goal just to the left. Alecko Eskandarian had an effort saved by Reis. And this was just in the first 30 minutes.
Time after time DC knocked on the door and it was either slammed shut by Reis or by DC’s own failure to find the target, a trend which continued into the second half. Adu forced a diving save from Reis just 3 minutes after the break.
However it would be Adu’s last meaningful contribution to the match as he was controversially substituted midway through the second half to “liven up the offense” according to his coach Peter Novak.
After the very good game Adu was having Novak’s decision to remove him and not midfielder Josh Gros who was having an awful match was clearly the wrong move. Heck, even resident playa hata Eric Wynalda said Adu was having a good game.
As DC became more desparate, New England regained their composure and survived several close calls down the stretch. An injury to Eskandarian and the cramping of Gomez doomed their DC’s chances, especially when the latter was replaced not by another attacker such as Jamil Walker but by a defensive midfieler in Clyde Simms.
Another questionable substitution and it made the Adu substition even more inexplicable.
Peter Novak simply coached himself right out of contention to replace Bruce Arena as the United States’ head coach.
Full marks goto Matt Reis of course but this was a team victory . Michael Parkhurst has had an absolute brilliant playoff run in the middle of the defense Steve Nichols combative qualities as a Liverpool player are definitely reflected in this squad from the 508. New England showed its grit contesting for every ball.
However it will take more than 86 minutes of defending against Houston. While Shalrie Joseph is back there is still no guarantee that Clint Dempsey’s ankle will be ready next week.
Simply put, New England needs to play offense from start to finish.
Only then will be able to exercize the demons of past MLS Cup heartbreak.
WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS
How advanced: Dynamo def. Chivas USA 3-2 on aggregate; def. Colorado Rapids 3-1 Outlook: Dynamo are looking to bring the winning traditions of San Jose to Houston.
After their dramatic last second come back victory a week earlier, Houston Dynamo spotted the upstart Colorado Rapids a 4 minute penalty before overhwelming the Rapids with three unanswered goals, two from Paul Daglish to advance to the MLS Cup in their inagual year in Houston.
Houston will probably come into the final as the favorite as their offense has absolutely clicking.
The Rapids witnessed this first when after Jovan Kirovski converted the penalty awarded for Adrian Serioux’ hand ball in the area, Dynamo immediately struck back before over 23,000 at Robertson Stadium. Ricardo Clark fed Dwayne DeRosario who backheeled a pass to an oncoming Daglish.
Dalgish made no mistake in the area and the Rapids’ lead was washed away in six minutes.
After the Denver based side tried to pick themselves up, earning a free kick and three corners, Daglish then doubled his tally in the 21st minute by heading home a Brian Mullan volleyed cross.
Daglish only joined Dynamo in September but the son of former Scotland legend Kenny Daglish said that he had not come over to MLS for a holiday. With two goals in the conference final, he’s given the Dynamo another attacking option aside from Brian Ching and DeRosario.
Brian Mullan officially punched Houston’s ticket to Dallas with a 71st minute goal crafted by two beauiful passes from Brad Davis through two Rapids defenders and Alejandro Moreno off the outside of his foot to Mullan. Colorado never got going in the 2nd half and they were unable to match their ’97 run to the Cup final.
The fact that they got this far was a testament to their self-belief.
Adrian Serioux and the rest of Houston's backline shutdown Colorado (houston.mlsnet)
For Sunday, the Revolution have the organization and tenacity to frustrate Houston who will be without Ricardo Clark, suspended for picking up two yellow cards. But New England will need to make the most of their opportunites in front of goal as Houston has been able to score at will.
Houston’s defense is not as stout as New England’s and they don’t want to have to be put in a position to fall behind a team that has shown the ability to put teams on lockdown.
However, they will enjoy a decided advantage in crowd support and would love to establish themselves as the preeminent Texas team in MLS.
Contrasting paths, contrasting styles. Whoever imposes their will on Sunday will earn their franchise’s first MLS title.