As Major League Soccer prepares for its 20th season in 2015, the league’s fans and pundits now have a longer history to analyze and debate. MLSSoccer.com unveiled its unofficial all-time Postseason Best XI and honorable mention list on Monday, and eight former and current Houston Dynamo players made the 34-player cut.
With eight of the 34, the Dynamo contingent comprised 23.5 percent of the group. Not bad, considering the Dynamo have existed for just 9 of the league’s 19 seasons.
The league’s editors gave most credit for postseason accomplishments – MLS Cup titles and appearances seem like large criteria, along with goals and assists in big games. In addition, players who played in a large quantity of postseason games were rewarded.
Here is a look at the Dynamo delegation included in the list, with a summary of their postseason accomplishments:
Brian Mullan (Best XI: Right Midfielder) – Mullan won five MLS Cups with four different teams, including two with the Dynamo (2006, 2007) and one with his hometown Colorado Rapids (2010). Mullan deservedly gained bonus points for rising to the occasion in big moments. In MLS Cup 2003 he assisted on Richard Mulrooney’s goal just 50 seconds after Chicago’s DaMarcus Beasley cut the Earthquakes lead to 2-1. Then, in MLS Cup 2006, 72 seconds after Taylor Twellman scored to give New England a lead in extra time, Mullan set up Brian Ching’s equalizing goal.
Notable postseason stats: 5 MLS Cups (tied-most); 5 game-winning assists (tied-most); 9 assists (tied-8th); 36 games (9th)
Dwayne De Rosario (Best XI: Forward) – De Rosario has four MLS Cups and two MLS Cup MVPs (2001, 2007) on his resume, and played in all four of his Cup wins, starting three. Like Mullan, he delivered in big moments, scoring the winning goal in extra time in MLS Cup 2001 with San Jose and then bagged the game-winning goal and an assist in MLS Cup 2007 with Houston. De Ro also converted his spot kick in Houston’s 2006 MLS Cup penalty shootout win.
Notable postseason stats: Went 4-0 in MLS Cup Finals, scoring two goals and adding two assists in the four games
Pat Onstad (Honorable Mention: Goalkeeper) – Like De Rosario, Onstad never lost an MLS Cup Final, starting as the Earthquakes won in 2003 and both of Houston’s cup wins. In 2003, with the ‘Quakes leading the Fire 3-2 early in the second half, Onstad stopped Ante Razof’s penalty kick for a decisive play in an eventual 4-2 win. In 2006, the first penalty shootout in MLS Cup history, Onstad saved Jay Heaps’ penalty to win MLS Cup after Ching’s dramatic equalizer in extra time. A year later, Onstad made seven saves as the Dynamo overcame an early goal from Twellman for a 2-1 comeback win and a second consecutive cup.
Notable postseason stats: 10 wins (4th among goalkeepers); 5 shutouts (tied for 8th); 21 starts (5th among goalkeepers)
Craig Waibel (Honorable Mention: Right Back) – Like many on the list, Waibel won the big games, going 4-1 in MLS Cup Finals, with the lone defeat in 2001 as his LA Galaxy lost to San Jose. Waibel started three Finals (2003, 2006, 2007) and the right back delivered three important playoff assists in Houston: at Chivas USA in the Dynamo’s first ever playoff game in 2006, the clinching goal vs. Kansas City in 2007, and finally, combining with Brad Davis to assist De Rosario’s Cup-winner vs. New England in 2007.
Eddie Robinson (Honorable Mention: Center Back) – Similar to De Rosario and Onstad, Robinson was perfect with MLS Cup on the line going 3-0 in MLS Cup Finals in which he played (2003, 2006,2007). Like Mullan and De Rosario, Robinson is among an elite group with four MLS Cup wins.
Wade Barrett (Honorable Mention: Left Back) – The Dynamo captain lifted the trophy after MLS Cup triumphs in 2006 and 2007, and won a third Cup with San Jose in 2001. Barrett started all three Cup wins and was 3-0 in three appearances as a player. Barrett started 21 of the 23 playoffs games his teams appeared in during his career. The left back also notched three playoff assists in run to the championship in 2001.
Brad Davis (Honorable Mention: Left Midfielder) – The Dynamo have appeared in 28 playoff games in nine seasons, and Davis has played in all but one (27) and started all but two (26). Davis started both Cup wins in 2006 and 2007 and assisted on De Rosario’s winning goal in the ’07 victory. Davis has three career playoff goals and each was important: A series equalizer vs. Chivas USA in 2006; a series clincher vs. FC Dallas in 2007 and another series equalizer vs. New York in 2013. Davis has nine career playoff assists, five more than second-place De Rosario (4). The lone Dynamo playoff game Davis has missed was MLS Cup 2011 after he suffered a quadriceps injury in the Eastern Conference Championship.
Notable postseason stats: 9 assists (Tied-8th); 27 games (Dynamo leader); 26 starts (Dynamo leader); 2,376 minutes (Dynamo leader); 92 corner kicks (2nd)
Brian Ching (Honorable Mention: Forward) – Ching’s tying goal in the 114th minute of MLS Cup 2006 is arguably the most important goal in Dynamo history. Six minutes from a heartbreaking extra-time defeat in front of thousands of Dynamo supporters who travelled to Dallas for the game, Ching’s header sent the game to penalties. In the shootout, the Hawaiian was Houston’s fifth penalty taker, and he converted his spot kick moments before Onstad stopped Heaps, and the Dynamo captured the Cup in their first season. Ching won three MLS Cups (2003, 2006, 2007) and is Houston’s all-time postseason scorer, with seven goals. Like De Rosario, Ching was as clutch as they come in the playoffs. In Houston’s first playoff series, Ching scored two of Houston’s three goals in a tight 3-2 aggregate win over Chivas USA. He rose to the occasion a year later, scoring twice late (72’ and 97’) as the Dynamo erased a 2-0 aggregate deficit for a 4-2 series win after extra time over FC Dallas. His late-game playoff heroics continued in 2009 when he scored the series’ only goal in the 96th minute of the second leg vs. Seattle. His final playoff goal, from a Brad Davis set piece, was the last goal at Robertson Stadium and sealed a 2011 series win vs. Philadelphia.
*In all, the list includes 34 of the most accomplished playoff performers in MLS history. If we were looking for a “snub”, Dynamo assistant coach Steve Ralston would be a candidate. Ralston started four MLS Cup Finals and he helped guide the New England Revolution to the playoffs in eight straight seasons from 2002-09. Ralston appeared in 34 career playoff games (tied for 10th), and is tenth on the minutes list (3,164).
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