[MLS] It topped 40 games played, just as it did last year, and once again the Houston Dynamo also fell short of MLS Cup.
Debate swirled after Los Angeles ended the Dynamo's season Friday night at Home Depot Center, 2-0, in a three-hour overtime marathon delayed by two power outages. If either team benefited from the nearly 40 minutes of delays, it would be the Galaxy, for after Houston pushed much of the play in the second half of regulation but failed to score, it dragged through the 30 overtime minutes just five days after edging past Seattle, 1-0, in a conference semifinal that also needed an extra half hour.
"You get a little bit of punishment for being a good team, but the guys are used to it," said midfielder Brad Davis, who exited the Dynamo locker room dazed and in slow motion, so heavy were his legs, and so spent was his energy. "There's a lot of ups and downs, a lot of bruises and stuff. You just battle through it. Yeah it's a long season but I can guarantee every one of the guys in here wanted to go to the final."
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena embraced counterpart Dominic Kinnear as the final seconds ticked away, and lauded him in the postgame press conference. "I think the world of Dominic," said Arena. "He does a great job with his team, and all fairness to them, I think the extra 30 minutes they had to play on Sunday really depleted their tanks. Obviously, when we got to overtime, I felt very comfortable that our team would find a way to get a goal.
"It was a game that could've gone either way. Let's be fair about that."
In last year's conference semifinals, the Dynamo played their 48th competitive match and lost, 3-0, at home to the Red Bulls amid incredible Danny Cepero saves and missed opportunities. The match turned when a Ricardo Clark foul in the penalty area provided Juan Pablo Angel the chance to up New York's lead to 2-0.
Against the Galaxy Friday, fouls by Clark in overtime furnished the free kick and penalty kick by which Los Angeles scored its goals.
"The foul that led to the set piece for the goal was kind of soft based on the previous calls the referee had been making," said Clark. "I don't think they were consistent with that at all. So, I think that caused us the game. I think it was fair to call the penalty but I don't think the foul that ended in Galaxy's first goal was fair."
The first outage, just 19 minutes into the match, killed a spell of Dynamo pressure on the Galaxy goal. Two blistering shots, one deflected by keeper Donovan Ricketts, rebounded off the crossbar, and referee Terry Vaughn disallowed a goal by Adrian Hainault for a foul.
"That was like the only foul he called on a set piece, and we score," said Davis. "It's pretty freaking frustrating. He calls a ball out of bounds when the linesman didn't even raise his flag. It's just frustrating when refs get involved in the game, but, hey, credit to LA; good team, they kept fighting, and they got the goals."
The season ended after 45 games, and unlike last year, without qualification for the quarterfinals of the Concacaf Champions' Cup. Age has started to affect a few players, including midfielder Brian Mullan; veteran Richard Mulrooney missed more than one-half of the season and is recovering from knee surgery; defender Eddie Robinson returned to action in early September after a long injury layoff; and Stuart Holden and Clark might be bound overseas.
Midfielder Geoff Cameron stepped into the back line for much of the season and played well enough alongside veteran Bobby Boswell to earn MLS Best XI honors.
Davis had to come off six minutes into the first overtime. He sparked a few promising sequences in both halves but his tank ran dry in the extra period.
"Of course, you don't want to come out, but that game, we were deep in minutes and we've been playing a lot of minutes lately, and I was dead," said Davis, who tied for the league lead in assists during the regular season with 12. "I felt I gave it everything I could, put it all out on the field, and my time came."
The time will soon come for Kinnear to ponder changes and upgrades. Midseason signing Luis Angel Landin showed little to merit his Designated Player status and $1.2 million salary. Other midseason additions up front, Dominic Oduro and Abe Thompson and Cam Weaver, were hot and cold. Help for Brian Ching is on Kinnear's wish list.
"I'm proud of the guys the way they played," said Kinnear of the Dynamo, which tied Columbus and Chivas USA for most wins (13). "A great group of guys that could have asked to go above and beyond like a lot of teams do in this league, and they came through. Some young guys have made some good season and great strides, and all the veterans are consistent. So in the end when you don't win, you kind of come out empty."