|By Jeff Kassouf
When the final whistle blows on Sunday afternoon at RFK Stadium, several trends will have either been officially continued or finally halted. For the third consecutive year and astoundingly for the fourth time in six years, the New England Revolution find themselves in MLS Cup.
Either New England can end their misery and finally get over the hump to claim a league title, or the Houston Dynamo will have won their second straight title over their Eastern Conference foes. If they were to do so, they would bring the Rev’s record to 0-4 in MLS Cup, and they will have added themselves to the top of New England’s grudge list along with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The Galaxy defeated New England in MLS Cup 2002 and MLS Cup 2005, both in overtime. Last year the Dynamo brought home the title on penalty kicks, and a win on Sunday would be another loss to a familiar foe for New England.
The two teams find themselves in very different situations entering Sunday’s championship, with Houston winning games with a fast-paced style of play throughout the year (and playoffs), while New England continues to play its classic hard-nosed game under Steve Nichol that has brought them so much success – well, up until the big dance that is.
Injuries could prove to be huge with Brian Ching questionable for Sunday’s game. Every Revolution fan can remember what Ching did to them in overtime of last year’s MLS Cup. Even if he doesn’t play, New England can’t look at that as a blessing, with Houston’s strike-force being one of the deepest in the league. Joseph Ngwenya and Nate Jaqua can fill in quite nicely up top, and don’t forget about the flare of superstar Dewayne DeRosario.
Houston’s defense, anchored by goalkeeper Pat Onstad, gave up less than a goal per game in the regular season, so this could be a one goal game. As good as Houston’s defense has been, New England is nothing to laugh at, particularly with Matt Reis between the pipes.
Such a game might lend itself to New England, who has shown how they can grit out ugly wins, but for the sake of the neutral fan, hopefully we see a high scoring, exciting game. My money is on New England finally getting its long-awaited championship 2-1, with the game-winning goal coming from the unexpected defender Michael Parkhurst off of a set piece.
Jeff Kassouf is a staff writer for The New Paltz Times and a freelance writer who covers soccer, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org