In a high-tempo classic re-match of last year's MLS Cup, the 2007 championship decider was won, once again, by Houston Dynamo. The 2-1 victory in Washington DC witnessed the Texans become only the second team in MLS history to claim the title in back-to-back seasons, while it confirms the luckless New England Revolution's current status as nearly men. They have lost all four of the MLS Cup finals in which they have been involved, including the last three in a row.
That end looked like coming to an end early in the match as the Revolution came out flying in the opening minutes, with the deadly triangle of Taylor Twellman, Pat Noonan and Steve Ralston looking in top form.
After a series of half-chances and nervy moments at both ends, this attacking trio clicked into high gear. Noonan picked out all-time MLS assist leader Ralston in space in the right side and his cross found Twellman marked, but not tightly enough. After rising highest and nodding just inside the back post, the club's top scorer raucously celebrated his sixth goal in the Revs' last seven play-off games and his 101st in a sparkling MLS career.
Defending champions Houston - without injured marksman Brian Ching - did their all to haul themselves back into the game. However, as the first period wound down, the Revolution attacking pattern nearly paid dividends again but Noonan could only head wide after a nice bit of service from Ralston. Zimbabwean international Joseph Ngwenya rounded out the first-half chances when his close-range header slipped wide in the 40th minute to leave the Dynamo ruing a wasted opportunity.
If the first half belonged to the Revolution, however, the Dynamo owned the second, and Canadian kingpin Dwayne De Rosario led the way.
A whole new ball game
In the 60th minute, Ngwenya made up for his earlier miss by getting on the end of an almighty scramble in the New England penalty area to slam home from close range and even the score.
With the New Englanders seemingly sensing a repeat of last year's final, when they surrendered a lead to lose out, the Houston men kept on pouring forward in search of a winner that arrived with 15 minutes to go. De Rosario - two-time Canadian Player of the Year and perennial MLS all-star - bulleted a ferocious header past Matt Reis from 14 yards out to seal the 2-1 win and bring a second MLS title to Houston in just the Dynamo's second year in existence.
There was a still one more moment of drama to come as a close-range header from Jeff Larentowicz with three minutes to go was somehow denied by a miraculous save from Pat Onstad to make certain the Dynamo would be celebrating at the final whistle.
"We have big players all over the team, I just look like the big man right now," said overjoyed man of the match De Rosario, who also scored the winner in MLS Cup 2001 to bring a first title to San Jose (the previous incarnation of the Houston Dynamo). "This is a team of big players. This is a special moment for me to go back to back as champion and it's a really great time for all of us."
"We never give up," added captain Wade Barrett. "This is a team of winners and we knew we were ever out of the game."
The victory also sees Houston qualify for the 2008 CONCACAF Champions Cup, the winner of which will represent the region at the 2008 FIFA Club World Cup.