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WASHINGTON – The Houston Dynamo locker room was a jubilant scene of mayhem and madness, but the man of the hour was nowhere to be found.
As champagne corks popped all around and excited players drenched coach Dominic Kinnear, club staff and even journalists with melting ice and bubbly, Dwayne De Rosario was missing from the festivities.
Even an hour after the final whistle blew on Houston's second consecutive MLS Cup victory, De Rosario was absent from a team photo shoot with the trophy. Eventually, the Cup MVP was tracked down after spending 40 minutes in the shower in quiet contemplation over the club's latest championship feat.
When he finally emerged, De Rosario gave a sober and thoughtful analysis of why he believes the Dynamo, after beating the New England Revolution 2-1 Sunday at RFK Stadium, is one of the greatest teams in MLS history.
"This team is a dynasty to me," the Canadian international said. "We see the determination and dedication every year and it is really unbelievable. I have been very focused on this and I really wanted us to be the second team in MLS history to go back-to-back.
"We never doubted ourselves. We always keep going and that has a lot to do with the experience we have had. Dominic finds guys who have that drive and he instills that never-say-die attitude into them and it works out for us."
The word "dynasty" has been used in this column and by others over the past week to describe the opportunity before Houston.
Two titles were won as the San Jose Earthquakes in 2001 and 2003 before the franchise moved to Houston for the 2006 season. Those team records remain in California, but it really doesn't matter whether the Dynamo's success is measured from the start of the decade or the beginning of their Texas adventure. It is either four MLS Cups in seven years or an equally noteworthy two titles in two seasons.
And it takes a special kind of spirit to come from behind to win a final. Houston clearly had it Sunday, even after a dismal first 45 minutes.
A switch to a 3-5-2 formation at the break allowed De Rosario to assert himself and end the domination of New England midfield maestro Shalrie Joseph. De Rosario's cutting runs had the Revolution defense on edge and gave belief to his colleagues that a comeback was not just possible but was there for the taking.
As a franchise, Houston is in a strange position. Even owners AEG pay far more attention to its other club, the Los Angeles Galaxy, than it does to the repeat champions. As MLS moves toward a situation where no owner has more than one team in the league, it is likely the Dynamo will be offloaded to another investor over the next year.
The new owners will take over some powerful assets, certainly in terms of personnel. And that includes the coach.
Kinnear does not have a big reputation around the soccer world, but the sport runs deep through his veins. He knows his players and how to get the best out of them. First and foremost, Kinnear looks for personal character, placing greater importance on intestinal fortitude than star power.
When things counted most on Sunday, his players were the ones who held their nerves.
"There is a great quote from Rudy Tomjanovich," goalkeeper Pat Onstad said of the former Houston Rockets coach. "He said to never underestimate the heart of a champion and that applies to us. We have got that heart and that spirit. You can never write us off."
This success, and last year's, did not come about by accident. Kinnear must take huge credit. His commitment is total, and after the game, he was already talking about watching a replay to analyze the proceedings.
But first, there was another drenching to be had. Champagne was squirted into his face, and ice slid down his neck. But the smile on his face never wavered for a second.