Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Houston Dynamo are the 2006 MLS Cup Champions

Houston Dynamo 1-1 New England Revolution

Houston wins 4-3 on penalty kicks

After a day of difficult travel and no internet connection, I am finally able to post a story that is 42-hours old. The Houston Dynamo have won the 2006 MLS Cup.

In other news, Lincoln has been shot. More as that develops.

The game itself saw lots of midfield play during the first hour. It's not that it was bad soccer, it was just not very exciting. Then a fellow by the name of Clint Dempsey came onto the pitch and the mode changed.

Dempsey broke the tightness that had dominated the game up to that point. He did made good runs at the Dynamo defense, but the big advantage was the fear he put into them. They coasted over to cover him, leaving holes for other Revolution plays to poke through.

However, even with these openings, New England could not beat Pat Onstad.

To overtime we went.

A strange thing happened in Frisco, Texas, during the break before overtime, it became cold. The sun sank low on the horizon, the wind picked up, a few drops of rain fell and suddenly the beer lines were replaced by hot chocolate ones. It was only in the low 50's, but it felt much different then the start of the match. The good news, this seemed to inspire fans to move around more, which also seemed to pick up the play in overtime.

The whole park was on its feet as Khano Smith put his perfect pass over to Taylor Twellman. When the ball finally went into net, the crowd, which was overwhelmingly pro-Dynamo, let out a gasp.

I must admit, I thought, "It's over. No way the Revolution will blow a lead with just seven minutes left to play." However, the wife leaned over and said "watch out for Ching or Moreno, one of them will tie this up and force kicks"

Before I even had the chance to ask her why she thought this, Brain Mullan placed the cross that Ching snapped into the net.

I looked at the wife in amazement as she cheered wildly.

Next time she makes a prediction like that, I'm calling someone and making a bet.

Suddenly the stadium was as passionate as some of the World Cup matches. Everyone seemed to think there was going to be another goal. Everyone was shouting and cheering, but alas we went to kicks.

Even after surrendering the lead in such inglorious fashion, New England had to feel good about where they were. They have one of, if not the best goalkeepers in the league and had recently won a game on kicks. Even with Dempsey left off the list due to his ankle injury, it was their game to loose.

Back and forth, all good, then Pat Noonan put his shot over the bar and the Dynamo fans go mad. But reality returned as Reis put the stop on Brad Davis's kick. Twellman hits his and Ching just beat Reis to force Jay Heaps to come up big. Sadly for Heaps, he did not.

The orange tide erupted; Houston had won.

Either team could have walked away as a deserving champion, but the Dynamo just happened to have that little extra to make it happen.

Congratulations to Houston and their fans. They put together a fantastic season and have exposed the city for the hotbed of soccer that it is.

Some other items of note:
- It seemed like every time Dempsey went down, he got a foul. I don't think anything sinister was up, but when you have the current star of the American crop on the pitch, I think MLS refs are more likely to call any tackles as fouls.

- New England did a great job containing Dwayne De Rosario and forcing him to play deep.

- How much must it have sucked to be a DC United fan while watching this game. At RFK, the Revs hold a one goal lead for 90-minutes, but they couldn't even hold 90-seconds in Texas.

- Dynamo fans are damn great fans and even better drinkers. They were truly filled with Texas pride.

- I saw in the Dallas paper that New England did not get to practice with the silver balls on Saturday. The reason, each team got 15 for their practices, but New England's were stolen Friday night.

- Also from the Dallas paper, it seems José Manuel Abundis was pissed that coach Steve Nicol didn't put him into the match and no longer wants to play with the Revs.

- The Revolution have not always been a strong team but one could argue that they have been one of the top three teams of the last 5 years, yet they do not have a single piece of silverware in their trophy cabinet. Makes you wonder what it would take for them to win something (Kinney over at DCenters has some thoughts that might be relevant to this).

- Pizza Hut Park is a top quality facility, but with no roof or heavily shaded area, I can only image how deadly the place is on summer afternoon games.

- The beer prices were a pleasant surprise (just $4-5 for a pint). On top of that, they were selling liquor. In fact, the first thing I saw as I came in the East gate was a card table selling hard alcohol. Not what I expected, but very fun to see.

- The parking and traffic were not bad at all. I had read a number of reports about how congested the area gets during games, but it seemed well controlled.

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