WASHINGTON -- For the second year in a row, Houston Dynamo fell behind to the New England Revolution in the MLS Cup Final. And for the second year in a row, Dynamo came back to deny the Revolution victory, winning MLS Cup 2007 2-1 at RFK Stadium.
Taylor Twellman had headed the Revolution into the lead in the 20th minute, and as the second half wore on it looked like New England might finally win their first MLS Cup. But Joseph Ngwenya stabbed home the equalizer in the 61st minute, then 13 minutes later Dwayne De Rosario snapped home a header to make Dynamo the first back-to-back MLS champions since D.C. United in the first years of league history.
For the Revolution, it was yet another heartbreak. They've played in four MLS Cup Finals -- bested only by D.C. United and the Los Angeles Galaxy -- and have yet to lay claim to the MLS Cup trophy. Dynamo won the MLS Cup last year in their first season in south Texas, defeating the Revolution on penalty kicks after the teams played to a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes.
Houston got off to a lively start and threatened just four minutes in, as Brad Davis found De Rosario making an overlapping run down the left flank. The Canadian international sent a good first-time cross to the far post, where Nate Jaqua was waiting all alone -- but the tall target man took too long to settle and his shot dribbled to Matt Reis.
Revolution coach Steve Nicol had predicted that a healthy Pat Noonan could be a significant factor in the days leading up to the match, and the lanky striker's quick, darting touches on the ball suggested as much in the early going. He cut past two defenders in the 66th minute but saw his centering pass intercepted by Dynamo goalkeeper Pat Onstad.
Jaqua's size and strength was giving New England's relatively undersized back line plenty to handle and in the 15th minute Avery John bundled him over with a risky tackle deep in the Revs penalty area, but referee Alex Prus waved play on.
The men in blue had been let off the hook -- and they took full advantage barely five minutes later on a quick-breaking sequence that began with Shalrie Joseph's astute entry pass to Steve Ralston at the top of the Houston penalty area.
The MLS Original touched the ball into space along the right side of the box and curled an inviting cross to the far post, where Twellman stole in between Brian Mullan and Craig Waibel and elevated to power a header into the net for a 1-0 Revs lead.
The goal sparked jubilation among the New England traveling support clustered in RFK's northeast corner and gave Twellman his sixth goal in his last seven playoff games.
Dynamo looked to strike back immediately and saw another decent penalty shout turned down by Prus when a Houston cross glanced off Khano Smith's arm inside the Revolution box, though replays showed that the tall Bermudian knew little about the contact.
Smith displayed an abundance of pace and guile in the 33rd minute, flying down the Revs left channel and jinking past two defenders before squaring for Twellman in the box, but the striker's shot was softly hit and Pat Onstad scrambled to his left to smother it before it reached the goal line.
But the action quickly switched to the other end, where Davis cut in from the left to latch on to Joseph Ngwenya's bouncing cross and slash past two defenders, only to see his shot blocked less than 10 yards from the net.
Enjoying a freewheeling role as New England's playmaking midfielder, Ralston was routinely floating wide to send probing crosses at the Houston back line and he almost grabbed another assist when Noonan rose to flick his inswinger just beyond the upper corner.
Dynamo's wingers were having a subdued afternoon thus far but Davis crafted a glorious chance for his side 40 minutes in, serving up a teasing near-post ball for Ngwenya, but the Zimbabwean's glancing header missed the target and immediately his hands flew to his face in frustration at the missed opportunity.
In first-half injury time, another excellent Ralston cross dropped to Noonan at the far post but his first touch was heavy and Onstad palmed his angled shot wide.
Neither team made any changes at the halftime break, but Noonan almost stunned Houston just seconds into the second stanza when he raced clear past the center of the Orange back line to collect a through ball with only the 'keeper to beat. But Onstad came off his line to deflect Noonan's shot.
Houston were looking uncharacteristically disjointed, short on imagination and struggling to keep possession, and their frustration showed when captain Wade Barrett was booked for tugging back Wells Thompson along the touchline in the 57th minute.
Revs maestro Ralston was putting together a world-class showing and came agonizingly close to another beautiful assist when he lifted a delicate cutback into the path of Noonan's late run into the box -- which the Indiana University product met with a nimble left-footed volley that whistled just inches over the crossbar.
But for all their quality, the Eastern Conference champs were still just a goal up and that slim lead vanished in the blink of an eye just past the hour mark as Dynamo knitted together a scrappy but effective play to level matters.
Mullan's cross looked like a simple matter for the Revs defense but it glanced off John's head and looped on to De Rosario at the back post. The Dynamo playmaker collected and skipped a centering pass through the goalmouth that looked like an easy finish for Ngwenya -- only for him to badly scuff his first-time shot as Reis hurried to his left. But the dreadlocked striker was rescued by a fortuitous bounce that sat up in front of him and he made no mistake with his second try, poking it under Reis to tie the game and give Houston hope.
Just moments later, controversy erupted when Smith and Waibel tangled near the Dynamo endline. Trying to turn the corner, the Revs winger tumbled under pressure from Waibel and complained loudly to Prus as the referee signaled for a goal kick.
The veteran Houston defender responded with some jawing of his own as the two jogged away and Smith rashly headbutted him with Prus standing just feet away. Waibel hit the turf while Smith hightailed it back into his own half, and after a brief delay Prus dismayed the Dynamo faithful by producing only a yellow card.
It seemed like a break for the Eastern Conference champs but once again, their Texas counterparts produced another clutch play to fully wrest momentum away from New England, this time in the 74th minute.
After Ngwenya had worked hard to fend off Parkhurst and keep possession in the corner, a series of passes eventually found Davis in space just outside the Revs box and his angled cross was perfectly placed for De Rosario to snap a header into the side netting to give Dynamo a 2-1 lead as their fans burst into celebration with flags and flares.
The Revolution poured forward in search of a response and nearly got one three minutes later when Noonan showed quick feet on a turn-and-shoot just inside the Houston box, only to watch his effort drift just wide of Onstad's right post.
Steve Nicol soon pulled Ralston off to give Andy Dorman -- likely making his final appearance in a Revs uniform -- a chance to influence the game.
The chances kept coming as time ticked away. Jay Heaps lofted a teasing cross for Twellman to head on goal, forcing Onstad to tip it over the bar. On Dorman's ensuing corner kick delivery, Jeff Larentowicz touched the ball towards the target amidst a crowded goal area but just when it seemed the equalizer was at hand, Onstad somehow contorted himself to make a game-saving block on the goal line.
Reis floated one more hopeful ball into the Houston box in injury time but Onstad collected again and soon Prus blew his whistle to end the match and make Dynamo back-to-back MLS Cup champions -- only the second team in league history to reach such heights.
Charles Boehm is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
vs. New England Revolution
November 18, 2007 -- RFK Stadium
Taylor Twellman 3
(Steve Ralston 2, Shalrie Joseph 2)
Joseph Ngwenya 1
(Dwayne De Rosario 2)
Dwayne De Rosario 2
(Brad Davis 1, Craig Waibel 2)
Houston Dynamo -- Pat Onstad, Craig Waibel, Ryan Cochrane, Eddie Robinson, Wade Barrett, Brian Mullan, Dwayne De Rosario, Richard Mulrooney, Brad Davis, Nate Jaqua, Joseph Ngwenya
(Stuart Holden 80),
Substitutes Not Used: Corey Ashe, Chris Wondolowski, Mike Chabala, Paul Dalglish, Patrick Ianni, Zach Wells
New England Revolution -- Matt Reis, Jay Heaps, Michael Parkhurst, Avery John, Wells Thompson, Shalrie Joseph, Jeff Larentowicz, Steve Ralston
(Andy Dorman 78), Khano Smith, Pat Noonan, Taylor Twellman,
Substitutes Not Used: Adam Cristman, Marshall Leonard, Abdoulie Mansally, Sainey Nyassi, James Riley, Doug Warren
|New England Revolution||Houston Dynamo
(Pat Noonan 5,|
Taylor Twellman 5)
(Joseph Ngwenya 4)
|shots on goal:||8||
(3 tied with 2)
(Dwayne De Rosario 2,
Joseph Ngwenya 2)
(Avery John 4)
(Brian Mullan 5)
(Pat Noonan 1)
(Joseph Ngwenya 1)
(Steve Ralston 3)
(Brad Davis 2)
(Matt Reis 5)
(Pat Onstad 7)
HOU -- Wade Barrett (caution; Professional Foul) 57
NE -- Khano Smith (caution; Game Disrepute) 65
referee: Alex Prus
Referee's Assistants: Adam Wienckowski; Rob Fereday
4th official: Brian Hall
time of game: 1:52
weather: Cloudy -and- 55 degrees
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial