When a team concedes a set piece goal, their fans always react with some degree of displeasure towards their own defenders. Because the majority of set piece goals are scored partially, if not entirely due to very poor marking, fans are conditioned to react a certain way to every one. Even when a set piece goal is scored that the defense had no chance to prevent, fans of the conceding team find someone to blame.
This is what happened to the Houston Dynamo and their fans during the second half of the MLS Cup final on Sunday, during a five minute spell completely and utterly dominated by Omar Gonzalez. He was rightfully awarded the MLS Cup Final MVP award at the end of the match for scoring one goal, helping to set up another and defending well throughout, but Dynamo fans (and a lot of neutrals) were unable to give a losing team a break.
It's an attitude that is not only unfair to Gonzalez, who played brilliantly and earned a victory for his team, but to the Dynamo players who do not deserve to receive strong criticism for lacking superhuman abilities. Sometimes, teams lose games because the other team has more naturally talented players, and that's okay.
Should the Dynamo have dealt with the two set pieces before LA Galaxy's goal better? Yes, of course, but that doesn't mean that anyone made a mistake on this cross onto the head of Gonzalez.
Two Dynamo defenders stayed in front of Gonzalez, goal side, and contested the header. The ball in from Juninho was a high one, and if anyone but Gonzalez had been standing in that spot, it would have gone sailing over everyone towards the corner flag. Gonzalez, who is 6'5", got his head at least a foot higher than anyone on the pitch could reasonably get theirs with a huge jump to meet the ball, then directed it perfectly towards the far post to net LA's equalizer in the 60th minute.
Three minutes later, Gonzalez did it again, but was called for a bit of a questionable foul. Silviu Petrescu blew his whistle to nullify a goal that probably should have stood, scored by Keane after another fantastic header by Gonzalez.
This was probably the most impressive header of Gonzalez's spectacular spell, even though it ultimately didn't count for anything. Will Bruin, who is a very big and strong 6'2" and one of the league's best set piece threats, had absolutely no chance while defending Gonzalez in the air. He did nothing wrong at all, and was simply overmatched.
LA's second goal and the ultimate game-winner came on a penalty, awarded after a handball by Ricardo Clark. Mike Magee's shot drew the penalty and Tommy Meyer fed him the ball, but the chance was created initially by this Gonzalez header.
In the two seconds after that sequence, Meyer touches to Magee, who turns and shoots into the hand of Clark, and Petrescu pointed to the spot.
Regardless of one's thoughts on Houston's set piece defense on Sunday night, this is utterly ridiculous. In a game between two professional teams who play at the same level of the game, this kind of thing simply doesn't happen, ever. It was a rare occurrence for Jan Koller or Didier Drogba to create three chances of this quality in a five minute spell, all through the exact same means.
The Dynamo were the better side for good spells of the final, created plenty of chances, and defended very well for the first 60 minutes. But for five minutes, Gonzalez was simply unplayable, and there was nothing that they could do about it.