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Houston returns to MLS Cup
by Ridge Mahoney, November 12th, 2007 7AM

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By tried-and-true methods -- efficiency on set plays and the unerring daring of Dwayne DeRosario - Houston duly returned to the MLS Cup by beating Kansas City, 2-0, Saturday. But those elements are only part of a formula that for the past two seasons has proven tough to break down even under pressure. Nate Jaqua powered home a Richard Mulrooney corner kick late in the first half to break open a goalless game and DeRosario drilled a low shot with nine minutes left for the clinching goal as Houston won its fifth postseason match (out of seven) since the franchise moved from San Jose in December, 2005.

Among the other elements of Team Dynamo are:

A stifling defense - which had set a league record in the regular season by conceding only 23 goals - limited Kansas City to just three shots, none of which troubled keeper Pat Onstad. That's right, he had zero saves.

 

The Wizards moved the ball around smartly in the middle third but seldom were able to set up forwards Eddie Johnson and Scott Sealy, or attacker Davy Arnaud, or anybody else, in a good position to score. Central defenders Eddie Robinson and Ryan Cochrane kept the forwards shackled and Arnaud usually encountered two or three challengers every time he got the ball near the penalty area.

Waves of roiling, orange-clad fans set another attendance record of 30,972, a week after 30,088 had watched Houston rally from a 2-0 aggregate deficit to roll past FC Dallas, 4-2.

The Dynamo is 4-0 in playoff games at Robertson Stadium and has outscored its opponents, 11-2. A thunderous roar saluted Jaqua's goal and seldom did the buzz subside before another crescendo greeted DeRosario's worm-burner that snuck between Kevin Hartman and the near post after a great feed from right back Craig Waibel sent DeRosario clear.

The depth built by head coach Dominic Kinnear upon last year's championship roster manifested itself in this match. Mulrooney, manning the middle in the absence of the suspended Ricardo Clark, had been acquired after being traded by FC Dallas to Toronto and covered great stretches of ground in addition to spraying passes and hitting dead balls. Jaqua came to Houston after being claimed by Toronto in the expansion draft and traded to Los Angeles, and soared above the desperate lunge of Hartman to score in the 34th minute.

Both teams misfired on early chances. Johnson fired a volley over the crossbar and at the other end Hartman punched a cross right to DeRosario but he, too, couldn't keep the shot down.

Hartman saved a low DeRosario shot later in the half but neither he nor any of his defenders could get a touch on Mulrooney's ensuing corner, and Jaqua punished their inadequacy. Jaqua clubbed Jack Jewsbury with a forearm late in the half and somewhat fortunately received only a yellow card. A tangle in the Houston penalty area during stoppage time prompted Wizard claims of "Penalty!" to no avail.

Midfielder Carlos Marinelli came on for the Wizards at the start of the second half and the attack perked up somewhat. Jewsbury shot into the side netting from inside the penalty area. Still, Houston created the better chances, and Wizards defender Jimmy Conrad poked away a DeRosario centering pass intended for Jaqua, just missing an own goal in the process. Hartman saved a driven cross at the near post and as he covered it up, Houston forward Brian Ching fell heavily with a calf injury. Joseph Ngwenya, another member of Kinnear's midseason recruiting class, replaced him.

A final servicing ball rarely materialized out of the Wizards' efforts, and the additions of Eloy Colombano and Ryan Pore really didn't provide a spark. A careless crossfield clearance by Kurt Morsink ran to Waibel, who turned it into the winning goal by pushing forward unchallenged to ping a perfectly threaded 25-yard diagonal ball that DeRosario took past Nick Garcia and from thence, to the bank.

Houston plays New England in MLS Cup on Sunday at high noon. How apropos.

Nov. 10 in Houston
Houston 2 Kansas City 0.
Goals: Jaqua (Mulrooney) 35, De Rosario (Waibel) 81.
Houston - Onstad, Mullan, Waibel, Cochrane, Robinson, Barrett, De Rosario (Holden, 85), Mulrooney, Davis, Ching (Ngwenya, 70), Jaqua.
Kansas City - Hartman, Jewsbury (Pore, 75), Conrad, Garcia, Harrington, Arnaud, Morsink, Zavagnin (Marinelli, 46), Victorine (Colombano, 66), Johnson, Sealy.
Yellow Cards: Houston - Jaqua 41; Kansas City - Garcia 55, Marinelli 58, Arnaud 93+.
Referee: Jair Marrufo.
Att.: 30,972.

 



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