FRISCO, Texas (Sunday, November 12, 2006) -- For the first time, Major League Soccer's championship was decided in penalty kicks and it was the Houston Dynamo that took the MLS Cup title by edging the New England Revolution 4-3 in the shootout following a 1-1 draw before 22,427 at Pizza Hut Park this afternoon.
Dynamo goalkeeper Pat Onstad provided the final act, diving to his right to deny New England defender Jay Heaps' weak PK attempt.
Both goals came within a 71-second span when each team's premier striker found net midway through the second and final mandatory 15-minute overtime period. Taylor Twellman's goal for the Revolution in the 113th minute stood up for only moments before Brian Ching's glancing header equalized and forced penalty kicks.
Ching, who also provided Houston's deciding kick in the tiebreaker, was named the game's "Most Valuable Player."
"It's the best award I've ever won, because it came in the course of our team winning a championship," Ching said. "We have a lot of MVPs on this team, but there's only one award. I'm happy to accept it as a reflection on our group of guys who just kept battling when things looked bad."
Three of MLS's first 10 title games were decided in sudden-death overtime, including last November when the Los Angeles Galaxy defeated the Revolution 1-0 in extra time, a repeat of the 2003 Cup final result.
Sudden death was no longer a possibility because MLS converted to world governing body FIFA's recent move from golden goals to a required 30 minutes of overtime. This worked out well for Houston, which was allowed the opportunity of responding to Twellman's fine strike.
Five minutes after Houston defender Wade Barrett denied New England a lead, stopping midfielder Clint Dempsey's header on the goal-line, the Revolution went ahead. Midfielder Khano Smith intercepted a pass deep in his defensive end and carried up the left sideline, cutting slightly inside as he crossed the center stripe. When he reached within 40 yards of the Houston goal, Smith advanced the ball to Twellman in full stride.
Twellman touched the ball forward once with his right foot, entering the top left of the penalty area before striking a perfect low, bouncing left-footer that tucked just inside the far post, well beyond Onstad's dive to make it 1-0.
Twellman's celebration, pumping his fist while making a 50-yard dash, consumed almost a minute. Immediately after the restart, Houston midfielder Brian Mullan took a pass, pushed the ball forward and then lofted a slightly deflected pass right to the penalty spot. Ching, who had slipped behind Heaps by a couple yards, elevated and nodded his shot inside the left post, past the reach of extended keeper Matt Reis and suddenly it was 1-1.
"I knew Mullan was going to cross the ball," Ching said. "We were fortunate to get a little deflection. I just got in the box and did the things that make me a goal scorer. The ball fell right to me and I was fortunate enough to put it in.
"I didn't think we were going to get one, but we were going to die trying."
In the tiebreaker, Kelly Gray and Stuart Holden converted the first two penalty kicks for Houston, while Shalrie Joseph and Matt Reis matched for the Revs. Dwayne De Rosario put the Dynamo ahead 3-2 lead, while Pat Noonan's attempt skipped off the top right center of the crossbar for New England.
Reis responded by stopping Brad Davis with a dive to his left before Twellman pulled the Revs even 3-3 with a drive into the top left corner. In the fifth round, Ching advanced, hesitated and then nailed his shot off Reis' fingertips into the right corner. Heaps scuffed his attempt for the left corner and Houston had its third MLS championship, the first two captured as the San Jose Earthquakes in 2001 and 2003.
New England is now 0-for-3 in the MLS title contest. "We've lost every possible way we can lose in the finals," Twellman said.
Houston 0, New England 0
Lineups: Houston Pat Onstad, Craig Waibel, Ryan Cochrane (Kelly Gray 102), Eddie Robinson, Wade Barrett (captain), Brian Mullan, Adrian Serioux (Stuart Holden 116), Dwayne De Rosario, Brad Davis, Brian Ching, Paul Daglish (Alejandro Moreno 81); New England - : Matt Reis, Avery John, Michael Parkhurst, Jay Heaps, Joe Franchino - captain (Khano Smith 53), Shalrie Joseph, Daniel Hernandez (Jeff Larentowicz 111), Steve Ralston, Andy Dorman (Clint Dempsey 62), Pat Noonan, Taylor Twellman.
New England - Twellman (Smith) 113.
Houston - Ching (Mullan) 114.
Penalty kicks summary:
Houston - Gray (goal), Holden (goal), De Rosario (goal), Davis (saved), Ching (goal).
New England - Joseph (goal), Reis (goal), Noonan (missed), Twellman (goal), Heaps (saved)
Total shots: Houston 15 (Davis 4), New England 15 (Twellman 4).
Shots on goal: Houston 4 (Ching 2), New England 7 (Twellman 3),
Saves: Houston - Onstad 5; New England - Reis 3.
Fouls: Houston 24 (Davis 6), New England 20 (Dempsey 5).
Offside: Houston 4 (Ching 4), New England 1 (Noonan).
Corner kicks: Houston 10 (Davis 9), New England 10 (Ralston 9).
Yellow card cautions: Houston - Davis 23, Cochrane 99, Waibel 103; New England - Franchino16.
Referee: Jair Marrufo.
Referee's assistants: Craig Lowry, Nate Clement.
Fourth official: Kevin Stott.
Time of game: 2:46.
Attendance: 22,427 at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas.
Weather: Sunny, 61 degrees