Top 50 MLS Cup Moments: #39 Change of Plans
|N. England 1||Houston 2|
De Rosario 74'
|Did You Know?|
|The Dynamo won the 2007 MLS Cup without two regular starters: Brian Ching (injury) and Ricardo Clark (suspension).|
39. Change of Plans (2007)
It was the second year in a row that New England and Houston met in the MLS Cup final. In 2006, the Dynamo downed the Revs in penalties, dooming the Revs to their third Cup final loss.
Surely, it couldn’t happen happen for the fourth time to the Revolution.
The Revs had been one of the top teams in MLS all season in 2007, led by the talented and well-balanced midfield trio of Shalrie Joseph, Jeff Larentowicz, and Steve Ralston. They were the centrifruge of coach Steve Nicol’s unique 3-5-2 formation — and on the day of the final, it was working to perfection.
“They played the 3-5-2 better than anybody at that particular time,” recalls Houston coach Dominic Kinnear. “They had Shalrie, Larentowicz, and Steve in there, and Steve was getting free quite a bit. We had only Richard [Mulrooney] and Dwayne [De Rosario] in there, and I felt the workload for those two was too much.”
Too much, indeed. The Revs’ numerical supremacy in midfield paid dividends in the 20th minute, when Joseph found Ralston on a run in behind the Houston defense. Ralston served up a tantalizing cross, which Taylor Twellman headed home to give the Revs the lead.
The score was still 1-0 at halftime, and Kinnear knew he had to do something.
“We were losing at halftime, and we hadn’t played particularly well,” he says. “Our forwards weren’t holding the ball up top well at all in the first half, so we couldn’t get our outside backs into the attack. So for us, for our attack and to make it easier on Richard and Dwayne, I thought I’d throw another guy in midfield and try to push the ball out wide.”
Kinnear is a confirmed disciple of the 4-4-2, and the Dynamo had only lined up in a 3-5-2 a few times during the year, mainly late in games when they were down a goal. Here, he was taking a gamble by going to an unfamiliar setup so early in the match. He pushed usual left back Wade Barrett up to the left midfield position, and had Brad Davis join Mulrooney and De Rosario in the middle.
“We felt that with [right wing Brian] Mullan and Barrett on the outsides, both good runners, we’d have more success,” he recalls. “Plus, it got Brad a little bit more of the ball, and it put Dwayne more forward.”
The tactical adjustment worked more than Kinnear could’ve imagined. In the 61st minute, De Rosario found himself in possession deep in the Revs penalty area, and his low cross was finished by striker Joseph Ngwenya.
Then in the 74th minute, De Rosario’s stunning snap header from a Davis cross beat goalkeeper Matt Reis and, coupled with a dramatic late save from Pat Onstad, gave the Dynamo their second straight MLS Cup.