The Dynamo's Double Standard
Monday, November 19, 2007
The Houston Dynamo arrived at RFK Stadium on a crisp Sunday morning with its star forward not available to play because of a calf injury and a standout midfielder serving the final match of a long suspension.
By the time the second half of MLS Cup started, things had gotten worse. The defending champion was a goal behind the New England Revolution and playing without the cohesion and vibrancy that had defined the club in winning trophies first in San Jose and then in Texas after the organization relocated two years ago.
"We actually looked a little tentative, we looked a little nervous, which really surprised me because of the type of guys we have," goalkeeper Pat Onstad said.
But with a formation change, a second-chance equalizer and another dramatic strike by veteran Dwayne De Rosario -- this time with his head, not his foot -- the Dynamo rediscovered its stride in the second half and secured a 2-1 victory before a spirited crowd of 39,859.
Houston became the first team since D.C. United in 1996-97 to repeat as champion. Officially it's the franchise's second title since moving from San Jose, though a core group of players can claim it as their fourth league championship in seven years.
The San Jose Earthquakes franchise -- which will return next season -- retains its 2001 and 2003 championships.
For New England, it meant a fourth runner-up finish in six seasons and the second straight year the club had relinquished a lead to the Dynamo. Last November, the Revolution went ahead in overtime only to concede a tying goal and lose in a penalty kick tiebreaker.
"Again, we proved how strong of a will our team has," said De Rosario, who scored the winning goal in overtime to win the 2001 crown and yesterday collected his second MLS Cup MVP award. "We never give up -- dedication and determination."
Taylor Twellman's third goal of the postseason provided the Revolution with a 20th-minute lead, but after New England failed to stretch its advantage, the Dynamo drew even on Joseph Ngwenya's shot in the 61st and moved ahead on De Rosario's 13-yard header 13 minutes later.
Onstad, who like De Rosario is a member of Canada's national team, preserved the lead with a remarkable leg save on Jeff Larentowicz's close header in the 87th minute. When referee Alex Prus's final whistle sounded, the Dynamo and hundreds of its orange-clad supporters celebrated an outcome that less than an hour earlier was uncertain.
"A lot of teams that get up on us let down their guard," midfielder Brian Mullan said in a champagne-sprayed locker room. "Our team just keeps going. We showed it last year and we showed it this year."
The Revolution was determined to end its MLS Cup misery, and for a half, the club appeared to have found the formula. New England's defense did not have to worry about Houston forward Brian Ching, the hero of last year's final and a spectator yesterday because of a calf injury suffered in the Western Conference final.