A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
Houston Dynamo Go Deep Into The Night To Win MLS Cup ’06
MIAMI — It was fitting that Houston Dynamo would come into MLS Cup missing one of their top players.
It was fitting that they would be unable to find the net in regulation.
It was fitting that they would find themselves behind in overtime.
It was fitting that when the match went to penalties, every one felt that New England had the edge given the playoff form of Matt Reis.
But through all of the adversity and doubt that has characterized its short existence, it was equally fitting that Dynamo simply stuck to its task, equalizing in overtime and seeing goal keeper Pat Onstad save Jay Heaps’ offering from the spot to win the 2006 MLS Cup, 1-1, 4-3 on penalties.
Houston won two MLS Cups in San Jose and were looking for a third but they would have to do it without one of their stalwarts in the midfield, Ricardo Clark. The young Furman graduate who earned MLS Best XI honors this season was forced to sit out the final through suspension.
Canadian Adrian Serioux slid into the defensive midfield role from the left back spot. For New England’s part, the main question was whether Clint Dempsey would be well enough to play. The US Honda Player of the Year remained on the bench to start the match.
After falling behind early in their semifinal match against Colorado, Dynamo was in no mood to follow that script and straight away began their assault on Matt Reis’ goal. After a 2nd minute turnover in the midfield, Brian Mullan sent a low cross from right to left that came all the way through to Brian Davis whose shot slammed into the side netting.
Dwayne DeRosario buzzed Reis’ goal in the 13th minute after receiving a long pass from defender Craig Weibel. Gathering it on the left side he lashed his shot just over the cross bar.
Houston continued consistently held onto possession throughout the first 20 minutes culminating in Brian Ching beating an off side trip and getting the ball on the left wing. He strode towards the area and laid a beautiful pass at the top of the area for Brian Mullan.
Mullan, however absolutely shanked the shot. A huge let off for New England who, aside from an unsuccessful appeal for a 17th minute penalty on Adrian Serioux for a tackle on Shalrie Joseph that replays confirmed was fair, had done next to nothing offensively.
The knock on New England coming into MLS was that they played too defensively. In their last two trips to MLS’ Showcase Showdown they not only failed to score in 240 minutes of play but also were guilty of bogging down play and not allowing any real flow.
The team from the 508 began asserting themselves after the let off and had a brilliant opportunity to go ahead in the 25th minute. After a turnover in their end, Steve Ralston helped bring the ball out and eventually Andy Dorman found Joey Franchino on the left. The Revolution captain drilled a perfect cross to an unmarked Taylor Twellman 7 yards out from goal.
However, Twellman, haunted by his inability to deliver in either of his two previous trips to MLS Cup was absolutely stoned by Pat Onstad and New England was still without a goal. DeRosario took a pass on the right from Serioux, who settled in well in Clark’s place, and drilled a long range shot that forced a save from Reis.
Twellman knocked on the door again, heading a corner kick goalward only to see Onstad make another save. Halftime arrived five minutes later with neither side really gaining any real advantage, either on the scoreboard or in momentum.
***image7***New England made the first moves to try and shake things up in the second half. Bermudan International Khano Smith came in for an obviously vexed Franchino at the 53rd minute mark and Texas native Dempsey made his appearance in the 62nd minute.
The substitutions breathed some life into New England’s offense. Smith made surging runs throughout the middle and down the left side and Dempsey took about a minute to set up a chance for Steve Ralston. Dempsey chugged down the left side and lifted a cross for Ralston but the veteran headed right to Onstad.
Houston missed an opportunity to ahead in the 66th minute when Mullan intercepted a failed clearance about 22 yards from goal on the right side. He fed an inviting ball to Ching about 8 yards from goal but the big man from Hawaii absolutely whiffed at the offering and the ball came through to Wade Barrett.
The captain drilled a shot that was well saved by Matt Reis for a corner. Ching was also unable to find the net with a 78th minute header from a cross by Davis but saved a Twellman header off the line 4 minutes from the end of regulation. Overtime arrived and New England would once again need extra time to win bring a trophy back to Foxboro.
Second half substitute Alejandro Moreno lashed a shot just wide 5 minutes in. Dempsey almost had the go ahead goal in the 98th minute, heading a corner kick downward and just inside the right goalpost only to see Barrett head it off the line.
It was in the 113th minute that the match took the dramatic turn for which this MLS Cup will be remembered. Khano Smith stole the ball from Mullan and darted forward up the left side. He entered Houston’s half of the field, coasted past Serioux and then laid a perfect pass between two defenders to Twellman.
Twellman took one touch into the area and drilled a left footed shot past the dive of Onstad into the back of the net, far corner. After 346 minutes, the Revolution finally had an MLS Cup goal. While Twellman’s finish was quality, respect must be paid to Smith’s surging run and pin point pass that hit Twellman in stride. 7 minutes from the end it appeared that New England would finally have their title.
Faced with adversity once again, Houston simply proved their resiliency. Directly off the restart, Mullan gathered the ball on the right and lifted a cross into the area. It was deflected and hung up just long enough for Ching to flick it past Reis into the net.
The 22,000 plus fans, mostly clad in Dynamo orange erupted. The stunned Revolution held their lead for exactly 71 seconds before seeing it evaporate. Penalties loomed like the horror of the shade.
Houston and New England both made their first two penalties, Reis converting the second for the Revolution. But Pat Noonan was unable to match DeRosario’s conversion, sending his offering up and to the right. Reis saved from Brad Davis but was unable to stop Ching from matching Twellman.
It was up to Jay Heaps to keep New England alive but the longtime Revolution right back hit a soft shot that Onstad got down to his left and saved. Houston Dynamo were the champions of MLS.
For New England it was another cruel blow, losing their third MLS Cup in 5 years. But for the Dynamo it was the perfect ending to a year marked by adversity. A sudden move from a city the players and coaches had come to love.
A controversy over the original name of Houston1836 because it offended Mexicans. An inconsistent campaign that saw them play well in flashes but not well enough to challenge FC Dallas for the conference title. An opening round loss to Chivas USA that took a loss second Brian Ching goal to overcome. Losing Clark for the final.
All of this before one of the most grueling MLS Cups ever.
After all of this, it was only fitting that the Houston Dynamo would persevere and claim a title in their first year in Houston.