Monday, November 13, 2006

ATH: Houston wins MLS Cup!

From Soccer America:

"When [Brian] Ching's header hit the net, I was in a state of disbelief. You go from complete despair to complete elation. I think it really kind of gave us an edge because we were really trying to win the game again. People were jumping up and down on the bench [after the goal] but I wasn't because I couldn't believe it."
-- Houston Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear, whose team won MLS Cup 2006 on Sunday on penalty kicks. Brian Ching's overtime goal, which tied the game 1-1 and forced penalty kicks, came one minute after Taylor Twellman had given New England the lead with seven minutes left in overtime.

MLS CUP '07: Triumph for Houston
By Ridge Mahoney, in Frisco, Texas
The performance of both teams in this year's MLS championship game personified their past histories, which meant failure again for the Revs and triumph again for Houston.

A turgid match, much of it as dreary as a 0-0 scoreline would indicate, lit up in the second overtime with the teams trading goals by top strikers Taylor Twellman and Brian Ching barely more than a minute apart. It ended 1-1, and Houston preserved its perfect record in championship games by prevailing on penalties, 4-3, to win MLS Cup '06.

Houston's past lies in San Jose, which won the 2001 and 2003 MLS titles under Frank Yallop. He and former assistant Dominic Kinnear instilled an unquenchable work ethic and forged their squads on chemistry and camaraderie. They surprisingly won their first title in Yallop's first year after missing the postseason four straight times, and in 2003 staged remarkable rallies in their playoff games before rolling to a 4-2 win in the championship game.

Since Steve Nicol took over the New England coaching job during the 2002 season, he's led the Revs to three championship games. The only consistent factor in those three games is defeat. They were outplayed and beaten, 1-0, in 2002; played a better game but were still a disappointment losing by the same score last year, and on Sunday improved somewhat from their 2005 showing and actually scored a goal, only to concede an equalizer within 111 seconds.

Sub Khano Smith, who came on early in the second half, was fairly well contained until the 112th minute, when he came inside and played a great through ball that Twellman let bounce off his ankle before firing it low just inside the far post. Right from the kickoff, Brian Mullan pushed up the right and his cross deflected off Avery John and Ching peeled away from Jay Heaps to head it in.

New England's choices for PKs were limited. Steve Ralston was suffering from a groin strain and Daniel Hernandez had been replaced by Jeff Larentowicz because of a sore ankle. No reason was given for why Dempsey didn't take one.

Kinnear chose subs Kelly Gray and Stuart Holden to take the first two Houston penalties and both were successful. So was Dwayne DeRosario, but with Houston leading, 3-2, Noonan blasted over the bar. Matt Reis saved the next kick from Brad Davis to re-tie the shootout. Twellman and Ching converted and Heaps pulled the short straw by scuffing a shot that Pat Onstad easily smothered.

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