Twellman 113' AET
2006 Club by Club
There were no new teams in 2006, only new identities. Energy drink company Red Bull purchased the Metrostars and rebranded the team as the New York Red Bulls, while the San Jose Earthquakes – just two years removed from their second championship and coming off a Supporters’ Shield-winning campaign in 2005 – relocated from the Bay Area to Houston, Texas, and became the Houston Dynamo.
And the sting would only worsen for fans in the Bay Area as the Dynamo picked up where the Quakes had left off in 2005, winning four of their first six games of the season to pace themselves to a second-place finish in the Western Conference, eight points behind their new Texas rivals FC Dallas.
But it was D.C. United that set the pace for the league. United won 13 of their first 19 games en route to the Supporters’ Shield, but cooled off significantly in the second half of the season, winning just two games from mid-July onward.
The table was surprisingly tight, though, for much of the season. Apart from the top-place Conference teams, only nine points separated the lowest seeded playoff team – the New York Red Bulls – and the third-highest seeded New England Revolution. Real Salt Lake, despite boasting Golden Boot winner Jeff Cunningham and finishing with the same number of points as New York, missed out on the playoffs by finishing outside the top four of the Western Conference. The reigning champion LA Galaxy also missed out on a ticket to the playoffs, while a win over the Kansas City Wizards in their season finale pushed the Red Bulls into the last playoff berth in the Eastern Conference by the slimmest of margins.
But as close as the regular season finish was, it didn’t compare to the first round of the playoffs, which saw two penalty shootouts. The 2005 Eastern Conference champion Revolution took out the Chicago Fire 4-2 on penalty kicks after playing to a 2-2 aggregate, while a wild 4-4 aggregate finish between the Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas was decided by an equally wild 5-4 penalty shootout win for Colorado that culminated with a fight between the two teams.
New England would bounce United in the Conference Final to make their second consecutive MLS Cup, where they would face the Houston Dynamo. Once again the Revs went to overtime, but after a 1-1 finish, New England came out on the wrong end of a penalty shootout. Houston took the shootout 4-3 to give them a title in their first season of existence and keep New England in an awkward position – three times in four seasons a bridesmaid, but never the bride.
Most Valuable Player: Christian Gómez – D.C. United
Goalkeeper of the Year: Troy Perkins – D.C. United
Golden Boot: Jeff Cunningham – Real Salt Lake, 16 goals
Rookie of the Year: Jonathan Bornstein – Chivas USA
Defender of the Year: Bobby Boswell – D.C. United
Goal of the Year: Brian Ching – Houston Dynamo vs. D.C. United – September 30, 2006
Coach of the Year: Bob Bradley – Chivas USA