Kinnear, Dynamo best suited to defy the odds at MLS Cup
By Chris Ravita, Soccer Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The Los Angeles Galaxy will compete in their seventh MLS Cup title match on Sunday with the hopes of validating one of their best-ever seasons.
Finishing the regular season as Supporters' Shield winners with an unbeaten record at home (12-0-5) has certainly made the Galaxy the favorites to hoist the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy, especially since they will host the title match at The Home Depot Center.
But if there is any club that Los Angeles would fear ahead of its most important match of the season, its a Houston Dynamo team led by Dominic Kinnear.
The Dynamo enter the MLS finale as clear underdogs, facing a superior Galaxy team in their home stadium. But Kinnear has the experience, and the daftness, necessary to pull off a shock result.
Kinnear has managed the Dynamo since the club relocated from San Jose to Houston ahead of the 2006 season.
He marked the move with successive MLS Cup triumphs, leading the Dynamo to back-to-back titles over the New England Revolution in 2006 and 2007.
Under Kinnear's watchful eye, Houston has failed to qualify for the postseason only once, missing out last season after losing Ricardo Clark and Stuart Holden.
Dominic Kinnear will need to out-maneuver the Galaxy boss by utilizing the right tactics and making the right substitutions at the right times.
After a rebuilding year in 2010 and a slow start to the 2011 season, the Dynamo had the look and feel of a major contender with their impressive play down the stretch.
Houston is the most in-form team in MLS at the moment, as the Dynamo concluded their regular season with a six-game unbeaten run to clinch second place in the Eastern Conference.
With a difficult playoff run that included trips to PPL Park to face the Philadelphia Union and Livestrong Sporting Park in a clash against Sporting Kansas City, the Dynamo have not only emerged victorious in all three of their matches, but preserved their unbeaten streak in impressive fashion.
Kinnear's men kicked off their postseason campaign in a hard-fought tilt at Philadelphia, taking advantage of early scoring opportunities to edge the Union in a 2-1 win.
The Dynamo were able to grind out a 1-0 win at home in the return leg against the Union, as Houston talisman Brian Ching scored the final goal at Robertson Stadium with a header in first-half stoppage time.
But Houston saved its most impressive postseason result for the Eastern Conference final, topping Kansas City 2-0 at the fortress that is Livestrong Sporting Park.
Sporting had made its home ground one of the most difficult places for road teams to pick up a positive result, and after Houston's MVP candidate Brad Davis left the match in the 39th minute due to injury, it seemed inevitable that the home side would advance.
Houston responded in the second half with goals from Andre Hainault and Carlo Costly to nab an unlikely victory and punch its ticket for its third MLS Cup in club history.
While it is only the third MLS Cup appearance for the Dynamo, Kinnear himself has a bit more experience in the league's title match.
Kinnear previously served as an assistant coach for San Jose, helping the Earthquakes to MLS Cup titles in 2001 and 2003 before being named head coach in 2004. Including stints with San Jose and Houston, Kinnear has not been on the losing end of an MLS Cup in his four appearances as both an assistant and as a head coach.
But lined up opposite Bruce Arena, 2011 MLS Coach of the Year, Kinnear will need to out-maneuver the Galaxy boss by utilizing the right tactics and making the right substitutions at the right times.
Kinnear, to this point in the postseason, has proven that these are some of his strengths as a coach, as he has shown that he can help Houston overcome a deflating injury to Davis by making the necessary adjustments to win in a tough road atmosphere at Livestrong Sporting Park.
For the Dynamo to get a win at The Home Depot Center on Sunday is an even more daunting task given the Galaxy's home record. But Kinnear's experience not only gives Houston the best chance to achieve that, it would give any team the best chance.