If there is one team that is salivating at the opportunity for redemption, it’s Dominic Kinnear’s Houston Dynamo, who wrap up a rollercoaster season on Dec. 1 against Bruce Arena’s Los Angeles Galaxy in MLS Cup 2012 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
What makes Houston’s return to the show all the more impressive was that they were the very last team to get entry into the MLS Cup Playoffs. Playoff-hardened teams built to win cups peak at the right time and ride on the wave of success to get far. Very far. As far as Southern California, which was the case for the Dynamo last year.
Let’s face it, readers on The View from Avalon. Houston are a MLS Western Conference team at heart. People who follow Major League Soccer know that the Western Conference is full of heavy hitters: from the Galaxy to the Seattle Sounders to Real Salt Lake to the current Supporters’ Shield winners San Jose Earthquakes. The East just needs an extra team in New York or Orlando, and boom! Houston jumps back to the West, and order is restored. Something like that.
But it wasn’t easy for Houston to adjust to the new scheduling rules, which now emphasize in-conference rivalries and reduced the Texas Derby with FC Dallas to a single contest (the Dynamo won at home, 2-1, by the way).
March started off decently, with a couple of 1-0 shutout wins over Chivas USA and San Jose. But the Dynamo went through a five-match winless streak, highlights by draws against the Chicago Fire and Columbus Crew and a 2-0 shutout by Seattle in April. May saw a mixed bag of results, with one-goal victories over D.C. United and the Galaxy offset by draws with the Portland Timbers and New England Revolution.
More of the same inconsistency from Houston came the following month, in which they underperformed against the Canadian sides (Vancouver 3-1 Houston, Houston 3-3 Toronto, Montreal 4-2 Houston) despite 2-1 victories over Dallas and Philadephia. But in the month of July, things started to turn around for Houston, who followed a pair of scoreless draws with five straight victories.
The Dynamo were left in the mire from August 10 through the end of September, though. During this stretch, the Dynamo managed a 2-3-3 record. But in spite of earning the collection of results in October, Houston earned just enough points to secure the fifth spot in the East.
Just like how the University of Texas Longhorns did their part to shock the nation in football back in 1990, the Houston Dynamo were out to shock the nation again in 2012. In the knockoff round, a brace from Will Bruin was enough for the Dynamo to send the Chicago Fire to watery grave on Halloween at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill. BBVA Compass Stadium has been a difficult place for many opponents to get a positive result, and U.S. Open Cup winners Sporting Kansas City felt the sting in their conference semifinal with the Dynamo. Goals from Adam Moffat and Bruin paced the Orange to a 2-0 victory in the first leg, and they could afford to allow Sporting to win the second leg 1-0 at Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan. as it give Houston a 2-1 aggregate win.
But perhaps the most defining moment of their season came in the first leg of their Eastern Conference Final with D.C. United at BBVA. Down a goal at halftime, three unanswered goals from Andre Hainault (51′), Bruin (68′) and Kofi Sarkodie (81′) gave Houston a 3-1 lead, and they held MLS’s most prolific team—historically, that is—to a 1-1 draw at RFK Stadium.
If there is one player ready for redemption on the Houston sidelines, it’s midfielder Brad Davis. He was unable to take part in last year’s MLS Cup due to injury, but he is healthy and will be the top playmaker the Galaxy must shut down. Davis had eight goals and a team-high 12 assists in the regular season for the Dynamo.
But the top catalyst that may become the X-factor of all sorts for this Houston team is midfielder Boniek Garcia. A Honduran international with a knack for creating chances and scoring goals, Garcia has established himself as the epiphany of the Orange with four goals and six assists in 2012.
This is no ordinary Houston Dynamo team the Galaxy will be up against, and it’s not the same team from last year, either. This is a side with a resolve to shock the world one more time and earn a star that waS taken away from them last year. Redemption couldn’t be any more sweeter for the beasts from the East. Of Texas, that is.