KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Dom Dwyer spent a good portion of the beginning of the year in USL PRO. He'll finish it in the MLS Cup Final after lifting Sporting Kansas City past their postseason nemesis.
The young forward, who lit up the third tier with 15 goals in 13 league matches while on loan to Orlando City SC, punched Sporting's ticket to the Dec. 7 final (Kansas City's first MLS Cup appearance since 2004) with a cool finish in the 63rd minute of the club's 2-1 victory over Houston in Saturday's decisive second leg at a frigid Sporting Park.
“It’s been a crazy season,” Dwyer said during the postmatch news conference. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet. I’m just pleased, and I’m excited, but we’ve got two weeks' time so I’m trying to calm down right now.”
Calming down has been a theme for Dwyer since Kansas City made him their first-round pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft. Even this year, after his record-breaking loan stint with the Lions, he had two goals in the regular season for Sporting but also let several good finishing opportunities get away.
“Recently, the last couple years, a problem with me has been I’ve been a bit too excitable in front of goal,” said Dwyer, who also made a one-night return to Orlando to score four goals in the Lions' 7-4 win over Charlotte in the USL PRO title game. “I tried to be more calm and I’ve had a lot more opportunities now. I’ve kind of calmed it down and I think that obviously helped – something I’ve been trying to concentrate on.”
Dwyer did just that in the series' decisive play, collecting Benny Feilhaber's well-placed chip near the top of the area, taking another touch to get into space, and sending a shot low to Tally Hall's right.
“Peter (Vermes, Sporting's head coach) said to me on Friday that, 'You don’t have to hit the top corner, just hit the net,'" said Dwyer. "Obviously, that’s in the back of my head, and I just finished it off.”
Others weren't quite so subdued in describing the goal.
“Dom's finish was ridiculous,” Feilhaber said. “I think it was the best finish of the year, to be honest.”
Hall, who had no chance to make a save, agreed.
"That was one of the classier goals you’ll see,” the Dynamo goalkeeper said. “His cut and finish made for one of the better goals I’ve seen this year.”
During the run-up to Saturday night's game, Dwyer was part of a video in which players recounted the things they'd heard their detractors say.
Dwyer's line? “I'm not good enough for this level.”
After his performance in the conference final, it's a line he's not likely to hear quite so often. But proving the naysayers wrong wasn't the goal, he said.
“I’m a very, very stubborn individual,” he said. “My parents will tell you that. I just want to win, that’s the main thing. I just want to win.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.