MLS Cup has a history of producing unexpected champions. Maybe it’s the 90-minute nature of proceedings that favor a team on its day, the normally neutral site or the mixture of playoff participants the regular season produces.
Either way, it seems the underdog always has an opportunity to walk away top dog, no matter what history, odds or common sense tells you.
And the Houston Dynamo, even if they’d never admit it, could very well be the biggest underdog in the history of MLS Cup when they take the field against the LA Galaxy on Sunday night at the Home Depot Center (9 p.m. ET on ESPN, Galavision and TSN2).
After all, this is a team that didn’t win an away game in its first 15 tries this season. And if that wasn’t already enough, they’ll likely be without their best player, Brad Davis, against the Supporters’ Shield winners, who’ll be lining up Landon Donovan, David Beckham and Robbie Keane in a building where the Galaxy are unbeaten this season.
So if the Houston Dynamo manage to buck the numbers and bring home their third MLS Cup in six years? Where would that victory rank in the annals of MLS Cup upsets?
Forget Top 3. We’d be tempted to put it right on top.
Here are MLSsoccer.com’s three-biggest upsets in MLS Cup history:
1. 2009: Real Salt Lake 1, LA Galaxy 1 (RSL 5-4 PEN) — Real Salt Lake squeaked into the playoffs on the last day of the season, dragging the stigma of a losing record (11-12-7) with them. They made the most of their postseason opportunity, though, rolling all the way to the final and edging out Beckham, Donovan and the rest of the heavily favored LA Galaxy on penalties while jump starting their own run of dominance in the process.
2. 2005: LA Galaxy 1, New England 0 — The Revolution had the second-best regular season in the league that season, while the Galaxy limped to the eighth and final playoff spot. With 17 goals, Taylor Twellman was the MLS MVP and Golden Boot winner, and Revs defender Michael Parkhurst was Rookie of the Year. It didn’t matter, though. The sides played a scoreless 90 minutes at Pizza Hut Park before Guillermo Ramírez struck in the 105th-minute to give LA an unlikely 1-0 victory.
3. 1998: Chicago Fire 2, D.C. United 0 — D.C. United had grown into a bona fide dynasty and were gunning for a third-straight MLS Cup in 1998. Awaiting them in the final were Bob Bradley’s Chicago Fire, who joined the league alongside the Miami Fusion that season. Chicago’s 2-0 victory ended D.C.’s run at the top and made the Fire the only expansion team ever to win a title in their first year of existence.