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Despite increased vigor, Dynamo again cope with MLS Cup disappointment

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CARSON, Calif. — Down their MVP finalist playmaker and lacking in inspiration, the Houston Dynamo in the 2011 MLS Cup final didn’t put up much of a fight. The 1-0 score, it’s safe to say, was quite kind.

So when the Dynamo found themselves with a chance at MLS Cup redemption Saturday, facing the same Los Angeles Galaxy side that handled them a year ago, they were determined to fare better this time around.

Sure enough, Houston ventured forward with far greater authority. But it turned out to simply be a detour en route to the same unenviable destination.

“We played well today,” Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear said. “We gave ourselves a chance to win the game, and that’s the tough part.”

In Houston’s 3-1 loss at the Home Depot Center, the Dynamo enjoyed several stretches of positive play. They came out firing, forcing Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders into some early nervous moments. Midway through the half, right back Kofi Sarkodie nearly converted a dangerous chance.

And just before halftime, Calen Carr opened the scoring with a clinical run and finish, using his pace to slip behind rookie Tommy Meyer before latching onto Adam Moffat’s lofted pass and beating Saunders with a rising point-blank shot.

“Last year was almost the feeling that we couldn’t go forward,” Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall said. “This year, we went forward.”

Although Galaxy midfielder David Beckham enjoyed his fair share of influential moments in the first half, including the long ball that keyed a golden opportunity missed by Landon Donovan, the Dynamo felt they controlled enough of the game and applied the necessary pressure to contain the Englishman, if not stop him altogether.

“We can’t come here, sit back and give them a bunch of space and let them play,” said Houston midfielder Brad Davis, who missed last year’s final with a quad injury after leading MLS with 16 assists. “I think we did well, and what we were trying to do is press high and not letting David just get on the ball and play balls all over the field.”

But it turned out the Dynamo only were delaying the inevitable. As the Galaxy applied increasing pressure to start the second half, it became apparent Houston was beginning to crack.

When Omar Gonzalez equalized with a 61st-minute header, the floodgates opened. As the 30,510 came alive, Los Angeles got its second four minutes later courtesy of a Donovan penalty kick.

Still, Houston had chances to knot the game late, with Saunders stopping a Will Bruin bid and Brian Ching’s effort going just wide.

“We didn’t back down,” Kinnear said. “We still went and got good looks at goal, some good situations.”

Once Robbie Keane’s stoppage-time penalty kick put the game out of reach, however, Houston had to cope with the realization that despite playing with much more confidence than they did last year, the disappointment of defeat could not be avoided.

“You just have to look back and look at the positives,” Davis said. “Unfortunately, things obviously didn’t go our way this year. But this is a group of guys that’s going to be ready to turn things around and get back to work and try to make things right for next year.”


  1. I’m going to enter the fray on the side of “Houston needs some fixing” since a team that finishes second consecutive years is not going to change its results standing still.

    I think the Dynamo need to up the forward talent from where it is. Bruin did make double digits but in playoff games having only one really good forward makes you easier for a set of defenders to mark. Carr has his set of fans but 4 regular season G and 1 playoff G, no matter how important, is pretty soft really. Ching actually was more productive, and few dispute Ching looked past it in the process. Ching needs to retire and depending on Carr for more than his traditional Fire sub duties is naive. The Dynamo need to keep amping up the offense.

    I think the midfield rounded into shape over the course of the season and was greatly improved with Clark and Garcia. However, I think as with forward the whole remains too underpowered, and I think that means we need to drop the 2 DM formations and sign someone who can quarterback and score for themselves a la DeRo. This can be achieved by pink-slipping as many of the mediocre surplus mids as can be done under the rules….Watson, Camargo, Sturgis, Kandji. That being said, both Clark and Davis are getting older so we need to be grooming young options at those spots.

    Last, the defense needs a complete revamp. The defense has been vulnerable and non-title-winning since the steady but slow Boswell was brought in with Hainault. The concept has not worked, because teams can expose our lack of CB speed. We repeatedly gave up 3 goal afternoons like LA did to us, over the course of the season. Which is how we ended up a 5 seed, is we’d implode on the road like that over and over. That it didn’t happen every time, and didn’t occur until the final in the playoffs, doesn’t mean it’s an issue to ignore.

    Nor am I sold that Sarkodie and Ashe are the future of the team as wingbacks, as neither is a particularly outstanding defender or attacker.

    In short, offseason priorities, CAM, CB, F.

  2. yeah this sucks but no surprise at all. like all mls teams, now, we will all be back next year to do it again. there are 4 cups (MLS SS/ MLS cup/ UC cup/ and CCL to play for every year. however, the CCL is still elusive for mls, hopefully in 2-3 years an mls team can win it.

  3. As a Dynamo fan, I can say it would have been nice to have won, but I’m pretty damn proud of what the team accomplished this year and I’m super excited about how we’re positioned to go into next season.

  4. Fact #1: There is no empirical evidence that having DP’s on the team makes for a better soccer team in MLS.

    Fact #2: Even with the two MLS Cup championships he Galaxy have won more points per match when Beckham is out of the line up than in it over the past 5 years. In contrast the Galaxy are almost half a point better when Donovan plays than when he doesn’t.

    Fact #3: On set pieces the Galaxy score at a higher rate when Donovan takes them than they do when Beckham takes them.

    Fact #4: Houston scores at a higher rate when Davis takes free kicks than when Donovan takes them for the Galaxy.

    If Beckham makes it harder to win games and harder to score goals, then why have him?

    Because he attracts attention and money. Even the way he kicks the ball is more flamboyant and eye catching than anyone else.

    The statistics say that Brad Davis provides better service than Beckham. When I watch the Dynamo on my laptop screen at a wide camera angle, I can’t tell if Davis delivered the ball, or somebody else. I can tell when Beckham is on the ball at any resolution or picture quality. Everything about him is eye catching.

    People care about the LA Galaxy who have never heard about the Houston Dynamo, who don’t know they have a better set piece artist. The MLS has caught the eye of the world because of the most eye catching player on the planet plays there.

    Maybe most important statistic is the increase in salary for the rank-and-file MLS player, the increased opportunity for younger players and the improvement in the quality of play. Perhaps those factors alone are worth the money.

    • You’re right that having DPs might not necessarily have empirical evidence of making a team better, but it’s foolish to compare Davis to Beckham and then say that the Galaxy could be better on the field without their DP. Well, they don’t have Brad Davis, Houston does. So without their DP, they still wouldn’t have Brad Davis, and they would have a player in Beckham’s role that wasn’t at his standard. You can’t put that in statistics, but DPs clearly make a team better, and you would be foolish to think otherwise. Think of LA with Buddle starting, and then LA with Keane starting. There’s no comparison.

      • You can’t use your gut on these, you HAVE to acknowledge the data. Either find a statistic to tell your side of the story, or you have no ground to stand on.

        I am not making this a political discussion, but it is people like you who thought the 2012 election was still undecided up until election day, when Nate Silver predicted the EXACT results an entire year before hand, even before one candidate actually received his nomination. He didn’t do that by going on his gut, he did a statistical analysis that has proven to be incredibly accurate (he underestimated the margin of victory in the 08 election by one state).

        I’m not saying you are wrong, but your argument supporting your conclusion is invalid.


    I’m sure every single Revolution fan is cheering now for the karma of making Houston know what it felt like to be them 2 years in a row

  6. I might just have my homer glasses on but it seems like the national media (including websites like this one) pretty much ignored the Dynamo prior to the match and then after the match they try to tell us how we should feel about it. The problem is they don’t understand our team culture and the culture of our fans because they never bothered to pay attention in the first place. While the result yesterday was highly disappointing and not what we expected, we are not in emotional shambles. We are proud of the consistent success of our club. We believe we are the hardest working and most cohesive team unit in MLS. In seven years we have played five conference championships winning four, and four MLS Cup finals winning two. We are very proud of our trophy case and very proud of our men on the field. The journey continues…

  7. The Dynamo fans are overall a class act, and it is great to have your enthusiasm and team support in MLS. I thought the galaxy were in real trouble in the first half. The Galaxy were leaving too much open space in the midfield for the Dynamo to be able to work with. The 2nd half Onar Gonzalez really changed things around. That shifted the momentum. Had the game been played in Houston I don’t know if the Galaxy would have faired as well.

  8. First of all, I have to say that I’ve found Houston fans to be as classy as the team they support, and for the most part, have seen very little sour grapes.

    It was a competitive fun game to watch, but it started with players looking a bit out of step and sloppy. I think this had ALOT to do with rust from the long layoff between competitive games. I am really beginning to like the playoff format, but do think MLS needs to rethink scheduling next year.

    The following comment is in response to some of the posts here, but mostly to a prevailing attitude I see in general that I find kind of curious. Perhaps I’m being presumptuous, but it seems to me that soccer fans in this country almost unanimously pine for a well supported, top notch, quality league that feeds a national team that is the same. I think we’d also love to see better coverage from the media and exposure and growth with the general public. The reality is, our league and country is competing against a world game that is highly funded along the lines of how the NFL and MLB in this country. The fact that there is an ownership group with some ambition and the willingness to invest in the game ought to be appreciated and lauded, not cast as some kind of negative. We will have to see and encourage more of this, not less if we want to compete with the rest of the world. How does this happen? When one team steps up and is successful in doing so both on the field and its finances, others will follow suit. Sorry, even though their budget is still a pittance on the world stage, I see the trend with the Galaxy as an encouraging sign for future growth of the sport and a competitive professional league here. Straight up- some of the play I saw this year, particularly the exchanges between Becks, Donovan and Keane were beautiful and world class. Rarely have I been able to consider that with MLS. Hey… I have a soft spot for the scrappy, under-funded, under supported, less skilled team that gets by on blood and guts and sheer determination too. Its hard not to. That said, I’m a little weary of having what I think is a beautiful game treated like a second class after thought and our players having to perpetually overcome the odds in order to compete with the best in the world.

  9. It must stink being the red-headed step child of AEG with 1/4th the payroll.

    In fact, when you look at the Galaxy’s payroll compared to their overall performance you would think they should be embarrassed. They should win every game by 3 goals or more lose maybe 2 or 3 games a year.

  10. It was a great year for the Dynamo. New stadium, Cup Final, CCL, Boniek, Taylor stepping up, the recent emergence of Sarkodie, Bruin finding some consistency. I’m excited going forward. The final was also an exciting game to watch instead of the defensive slug fest most would expect from Houston.

  11. Sucks having to play a team with twice the spending power on their own turf two years in row. If Houston were to have been a top seed, I suspect MLS would have issued an addendum effective immediately to move the final to a random location to be picked from either the home field of 1) LA Galaxy or 2) Chivas USA.

    • Considering that Houston was even more of an underdog of even having a chance to make it all the way to the MLS Cup Final in the first place, you should can the conspiracy talk. Enjoy the fact that your team made it as far as they did against the odds, and save the loser “MLS is against us” mentality forbutthurt San Jose fans, m’kay?

      • Well – unfortunately I’ve failed to properly include the necessary amount of satire, I don’t have any kind of “conspiracy” kick as far as the MLS finals go. I do believe the Galaxy get preferential treatment but that’s more in regards to player personnel rulings. But yea, the deal about the finals location was most definitely in jest.

  12. Crew fan, thanks for the support but I don’t feel like you need to feel bad for us. It is a frustrating situation but every team has their own frustrations. I could not be more proud of our players and coaching staff. We were gifted an outstanding team and have been spoiled with an amazing amount of success over the last seven seasons. There are 17 other clubs who would have loved to have been in our shoes yesterday.

  13. I feel bad for Dynamo fans, it must be tough to swallow losing two years in a row to a better funded team that you share an owner with. I also hope that SBI doesn’t lose MLS media access for daring to pen an article that doesn’t feature THE LA GALAXY, SUPERCLUB! EVERYONE PAY ATTENTION TO THE LA GALAXY, NOTHING ELSE MATTERS!

  14. Huge Dynamo fan here…hated to see the boys lose yesterday, but extremely proud nonetheless. Our team has such heart & about 1/2 the salary of Galaxy. No disrespect to LA, but that’s the truth. Much Respect to Mr. Becckham & everything he’s done for the league and American Soccer,He is a true gentleman, and by all means an even better father. Thank you Becks! Another great year for Dom & the boys, all Dynamo supporters should be Proud. I know I am. Loved seein them Texas flags (Dynamo Fans) on National TV yesterday!

    • The data doesn’t support a high team salary being a deciding factor in winning. Look at NY, Toronto, Dallas and Vancouver. Then look at Colorado, SJ, Kansas City and Houston. Andy Green did an analysis on data from 2007-2011 and found no statistical link between team salary and performance in MLS. Given how the top salary teams did this year the analysis isn’t going to move in favor of high salaries. The data suggests our DP structure hurts just as much as it helps.

      • Most of that data is not in the modern larger cap, 3 DP era. Plus all the data shows is that it doesnt guarantee success. I love the Dynamo and they have Donovan and Beckham equivalents, but no one that comes close toe Keane.

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