CARSON, Calif. – The odds were stacked against Houston from the moment Los Angeles reached the MLS Cup.
In order to add a third title to the trophy case, the Dynamo would have to defeat the league's top regular season team at the Home Depot Center without the influential Brad Davis.
Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan ensured this final followed the script many suggested it would with his second-half winner, but the Dynamo defended resolutely and kept the match close before ultimately succumbing to a 1-0 defeat.
“We gave ourselves a chance,” Houston coach Dominic Kinnear said. “It took one goal to win it. Sometimes, that's what finals are all about. When we pressed forward in the last 15 (minutes), we just couldn't find the equalizer. Full credit to the guys for pumping away for 90 minutes. It's a disappointed locker room. Congratulations to Los Angeles.”
Most of the disappointment stemmed from a performance that didn't quite meet the standard set during the recent nine-match unbeaten run. Houston failed to find its rhythm for much of the evening and spent much of the night trying to ward off the Galaxy's attempts to locate the crucial opener.
“We're disappointed on the night,” Houston defender Geoff Cameron said. “We didn't play our best. We had some opportunities, especially in the second half when we started pinging the ball around. We had them pinned in their (defensive half). It's just one of those things.”
A lack of attacking menace further hampered the efforts. Houston faltered when it tried to transition from back to front without Davis to guide its efforts and found its service into the penalty area wanting when it eventually devised a way to carve out potential opportunities.
“Even on the set pieces that we had, we were just off,” Kinnear said. “It wasn't one particular person. It was just as a group. When you have a corner kick or a free kick, you want to put them under pressure. I don't think we did that enough tonight.”
The dearth of pressure and the lack of overall quality going forward underscored the importance of Davis' absence. The veteran midfielder finished second in the MVP voting earlier this week, but he missed this showcase fixture after sustaining a right quadriceps injury in the Eastern Conference final victory over Sporting Kansas City.
Kinnear said he couldn't predict how the match would have changed if Davis had played, but he noted that the Dynamo could have used its talisman to bolster its efforts.
“It's a delicate question,” Kinnear said. “He's a good player. We missed him.”
In the end, it remains uncertain whether Davis' presence could have changed the course of the match or its final outcome. Although Kinnear and the Dynamo players were crestfallen to lose out in the end, they paid tribute to the Galaxy's efforts on the evening.
“They played well,” Houston forward Brian Ching said. “They've been playing well all season. They were playing at home. It was a tough task. We knew it coming in. They came out and played the way they've been playing all season. Hats off to them. They handled the pressure well.”
Kyle McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and frequently writes opinion pieces during the week for Goal.com. He also covers the New England Revolution for the Boston Herald and MLSsoccer.com. Contact him with your questions or comments at email@example.com follow him on Twitter by clicking here.
Follow Goal.com on to get the latest soccer news directly. Check out Goal.com's page; be part of the best soccer fan community in the world!