Sunday, November 18, 2007

Another Year with the Silver Ball!

Another perfect ending to the season: Dynamo Houston crowned MLS Cup Champions again. (Game recap.) Another year with the silver ball and scudetto, only this time we do it with a star over our shield.

As a Legend In My Own Mind, I correctly "predicted" it'd be a 2-1 victory with us either (1) going ahead 2-0 then conceding a late goal to halve the lead or (2) going down 1 goal then replying with 2 unanswered. Of course this was no true prediction, it was merely a wild guess, and I would gladly have been wrong as long as the Dynamo carried the day. Regardless, by following the above option #2, the Dynamo created a better storyline and further entrenched themselves as the never-say-die team of the MLS.

The first half was fairly even, I thought, with the Dynamo unable to capitalize on their opportunities. I'd say the run of play was tilted a bit in New England's favor, a fact that was highlighted by the 0-1 halftime scoreline. The second half (thanks in part to a switch to 3-5-2) saw the field tilt to favor the orange, leading to Ngwenya's "determination goal" and DeRo's excellent rocket of a header. In the final 10 minutes we resorted to withstanding the spirited barrage from the desperate New England side. The highlight here was Onstad's reaction save of Jeff Larentowicz's point blank header around the 86th minute.

Okay, time to correct the history books: it wasn't the switch to a 3-5-2 that turned the tide tonight, nor was it individual brilliance on the part of the players. No, it was me subbing out my untried lucky shirt and bringing on a veteran to seal the deal. It was about the 60th minute when I did this, and our fortunes changed immediately thereafter.

No, I'm not forsaking the rookie shirt. It'll get its chance again next season. But sometimes you need experience in a big game. The rookie shirt may get there someday.

Overall, it was a very even contest -- just looking at the stats will confirm that. This is to be expected with these two teams that are both forged on consistency and teamwork. The only real differences between the two is (1) the Dynamo, while playing a 4-4-2 (compared to the Revs' 3-5-2), are more attack minded in general, and (2) the Dynamo individually seem to step up in the big games.

As close as the game was, it was a deserved win for the Dynamo. Khano Smith should have been sent off. Zidane's head butt was fiercer, but was to the chest. Smith's was to the face -- and in front of the ref no less! He should've been sent off for being stupid if nothing else. (Or maybe incessant diving?) Also, I felt that Jaqua was indeed fouled in the box around the 15th minute. Had it been anywhere else on the field, it'd been free kick Dynamo. Perhaps the referee thought it was too early to make a game-changing decision like awarding a PK -- okay, this line of reasoning from commentators always confused me. When a call is justified, the referee isn't the one making a game-changing decision; the fouling player had made the game-changing decision with his foul.

(On the reffing topic: Alex Prus, the center ref, is not one of the four full time professional MLS referees. Why wouldn't the MLS pull from this corps for the championship game? Do they feel these aren't really the best of the crop? I guess Jair Marrufo didn't impress with his reffing of the Dynamo-Wizards playoff game.)

It's great seeing the Dynamo on the awards platform. The guys sure looked happy (and exhausted), with even the most stolid players breaking out in wide grins. And Don Garber, after missing the Western Conference Championship, was present for the award.

Was it me, or did Don Garber seem a bit unenthused to be awarding the trophy to the Dynamo? Was he sad for his buddy, Sunil Gulati, who still is the President of Kraft Soccer for the New England Revolution, while also being the president of the United States Soccer Federation? The potential conflict of interest has been noted by many, but the MLS is still a small cabal of insiders. That's one great thing about the new teams and new ownership: it's bringing new blood into what can be perceived as an inbred family.

Enough cynicism from me.

I saw the news reports on Channel 2, Channel 11, and Fox-26. All good, and all positive, and all with the Dynamo victory as the lead item. There were some flubs -- like Matt Musil reporting that Ngwenya's goal came via a feed from Ching, but he knew Ching was on the bench and even wrote as much in his blog. Still, he cared enough to attend the match on a day when the Texans were playing, and for that he gets my respect -- even if he gets free kicks confused with penalty kicks.

Anyone know why the team refers to the "voice of the Dynamo" Steve Mark as "Screech"? They did so on the 790 postgame report.

With the Cup in the books, now Coach Kinnear needs to settle on his protected lineup and hope we don't lose anyone too vital to San Jose in next week's expansion draft. Then Dom is apparently going to Britain and Spain to reconnoiter. Then we have to prepare for the CONCACAF Champions Cup in February (and onward, hopefully), and also the Pan Pacific Cup in February. We'll be exhausted by time the season starts and will, thankfully, have a while before we have to worry about the US Open Cup and the SuperLiga. Here's hoping that our League schedule is kind, given the extracurricular competitions in which we'll be expending our energy.

But that can wait. Before worrying about the future, let's celebrate this season at the Houston City Hall on Tuesday at 5:30.

How about this Hot News?...
Hot news: Fox Soccer has as one of its top news items the breaking story that Beckham says he wants to play in the World Cup in 2010. This is indeed breathtaking insight. Unreported is news as to whether any Americans want to play in the World Cup at this time; however, it has been rumored that both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning say they want to play in the Superbowl at the end of the season. The Houston Astros say they want to win the World Series next season. The Houston Dynamo haven't said, but are presumed to want to win the MLS Cup next year. Off the record, I believe that there are a few players on the Revolution, DC United, RBNY, Chivas USA, KC Wizards, FC Dallas, [insert your favorite MLS team name here]..., and FC Toronto who also want to win the MLS Cup next season. If I can confirm this, I'll be sure to let everyone know. (Well lookie there: I did have some more cynicism in me.)

Go Dynamo! Back 2 back champions!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post. Thanks for changing the shirt, too.

Good news in terms of strain on the players...the CCC isn't expected to start until March. Here's a link with more info.