Landon Donovan failed again from the penalty spot, and the MLS Cup rematch, unlike the past two MLS Cups, went the Houston Dynamo’s way, thanks toAndrew Driver’s second-half finish.
Driver scored in the 56th minute and the Dynamo (5-2-2) joined Sporting Kansas City, New York Red Bulls and Montreal Impact atop the Eastern Conference with 17 points following a 1-0 triumph over the LA Galaxy on a cold, rainy night at the Home Depot Center.
Donovan missed a first-half penalty kick, his second miss this season from the spot, and the Galaxy (4-2-2), still missing forward Robbie Keane (sprained ankle) and left back Todd Dunivant (leg strain), struggled to create opportunities against an aggressive and organized Houston defense.
The Dynamo, who were without suspended captain Brad Davis, had more and better opportunities and might have gone ahead early, when Bobby Bowell’s sharp header from a corner kick forced a reaction save by LA goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini, or near the end of the first half, when Omar Gonzalez blocked a Giles Barnes shot after Will Bruin found his way into the Galaxy box from the right.
Driver’s tally wrapped up a quick sequence that started with goalkeeper Tally Hall giving the ball to Boswell deep in Dynamo territory. Boswell sent a long ball to Barnes, who took the ball nearly to the end line on the right side of LA’s box, then cut it back against Gonzalez, rolling it diagonally about 20 yards to the top of the area. Driver, sprinting from the left, hit it first time with his left foot and drove it inside the left post.
The Galaxy penetrated into Houston territory in the second half but rarely managed an open shot, even after Donovan, who returned to LA’s midfield after missing last week’s victory at Real Salt Lake with a leg strain, joined second-half substitute Gyasi Zardes up front in the 73rd minute. Houston managed to block nine Galaxy shots.
LA’s best chance was the penalty kick in the 25th minute. Jose Villarreal won the kick, taking a through ball from Donovan to the top of the Houston box, then cutting right and pushing the ball past Hall. There was contact, and Villarreal went sprawling.
Referee Allen Chapman pointed to the spot but didn’t issue a card, yellow or red, to Hall, as Villarreal’s touch took him away from goal and Boswell was lurking nearby.
Donovan stutter-stepped before firing weakly toward the right side of the net, and Hall had no trouble making the stop.
Donovan also missed from the spot, another weakly taken kick that was saved, in the Galaxy’s April 13 loss at FC Dallas. He had made 28 of 31 MLS regular-season penalties coming into the season but had missed during the shootouts to decide the 2009 MLS Cup final and the 2007 SuperLiga final.
Houston have two games in the next week, Wednesday night at D.C. United and Sunday against Sporting Kansas City. The Galaxy play Saturday night at Vancouver.