The championship rematch can wait. The Houston Dynamo and their rowdy fans want to celebrate another Western Conference title for a little while longer.
Nate Jaqua and Dwayne De Rosario scored goals and the Dynamo advanced to their second straight MLS Cup with a 2-0 win over Kansas City in the West final on Saturday night.
The Dynamo will face New England next Sunday, the team they defeated in last year’s championship match. The Revolution reached their third consecutive MLS Cup with a 1-0 win over Chicago on Thursday night.
“No thoughts right now,” Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear said of the matchup with New England. “I want to try to enjoy this.”
Houston’s fans certainly did.
The game drew 30,972 fans, a Dynamo record in their two seasons at Robertson Stadium, the regular home of the University of Houston football team. Long after the game ended, hundreds of fans were pounding drums, stomping on the bleachers and waiting for the players to come out of the locker room.
The team was a mere curiosity here last season, but the fan base has grown in droves in a city starving for a consistent, professional winner.
“When we first came here, I said not only is Houston getting an MLS team, it’s getting a successful and a very driven MLS team,” Kinnear said. “Right away, the fans took to us and we took to them and it’s built.”
Fueled by the noisy atmosphere, Houston dominated at both ends, outshooting Kansas City 11-3. Dynamo goalkeeper Pat Onstad never even had to make a save.
Wizards forward Eddie Johnson, a member of the 2006 U.S. World Cup team and the league’s fourth-leading scorer in the regular season, mustered two of Kansas City’s three shots. Defenseman Jack Jewsbury had the other one.
“Our reaction, our responsibility to defend, was almost automatic,” Kinnear said. “You can’t ask for anything better than that.”
The Dynamo also created good scoring chances from the start and finally took a 1-0 lead on a corner kick in the 35th minute.
Midfielder Richard Mulrooney hooked his high kick in toward the goal and the 6-foot-3 Jaqua outleaped Kansas City goalkeeper Kevin Hartman to head it into the top left corner of the net. It was the first goal allowed by the Wizards in four games, a span of 371 minutes.
The Dynamo nearly scored on two other corner kicks in the opening four minutes.
“Our set pieces were very dangerous,” Kinnear said.
The Wizards mustered only one shot in the opening half, a blast by Johnson in the 12th minute that sailed wide right of the goal.
Houston had nine shots in the half and Hartman had to make two saves in traffic two minutes after halftime.
As Houston continued to dominate, the Wizards got frustrated, getting two yellow cards in a three-minute span. The persistent taunts from the fans didn’t help.
“This is a good learning lesson for us,” said Kansas City defender Jimmy Conrad. “Obviously, the crowd played a big part. If we had our crowd behind us, as opposed to getting booed every time we touch the ball, that would probably make a difference.”
In the 68th minute, midfielder Brad Davis drove into the penalty area and ripped a low shot that Hartman dived to knock away. De Rosario and Jaqua had a 2-on-1 chance in the 76th minute, but Conrad deflected De Rosario’s cross out of bounds.
De Rosario put the game away in the 81st minute when he took a long pass from defensman Craig Waibel, outran a defender and beat Hartman with a low, left-footed drive. He might’ve hesitated if not for the missed chance five minutes earlier.
“I said, ‘Next chance I get, I’m just going to hit it,”‘ De Rosario said. “Thankfully, it went in.”
Aside from a few runs by Johnson and a corner kick that the Dynamo quickly cleared, Kansas City never mounted much of an attack in the second half either.
“I thought we were a little bit better in the second half,” said Wizards coach Curt Onalfo. “But they didn’t give up a lot of chances.”
Houston and New England played to a 1-1 tie in last year’s MLS Cup. The Dynamo won 4-3 on penalty kicks.