The LA Galaxy put the dagger in the Houston Dynamo's heart last Friday, ending their 2009 season. The 2-0 defeat in overtime left the Orange marooned one step away from the MLS Cup.
It was a wild affair in Los Angeles, a game that was interrupted twice for power outages, and was scoreless for over 100 minutes. The Dynamo seemed to score the winning goal minutes before the final whistle, but was overturned by the head referee due to a foul in the box.
With all that, the Dynamo had the game in control for most of the match; it was classic Dynamo futbol. Solid defending, accompanied by a great performance from the ageless Pat Onstad in front of goal, helped feed a strong midfield performance that attacked with fury and even kept David Beckham and Landon Donovan in check for most of the match.
The Galaxy were supposed to be nothing without those two, and yet were able to win in overtime with a goal from Greg Berhalter and a penalty kick that was created by Alan Gordon. Who?
Not even the two separate power outages in the 18th and 51st minute seemed to slow down the Orange. There were reports of blackouts in Southern California, although it was probably someone in the Galaxy front office who forgot to pay the light bill -- should have gone with the automatic bill pay option.
Ultimately, just like the Seattle series, the Dynamo's Achilles heel turned out to be their finishing. They were able to get past the Sounders with a fantastic goal from Brian Ching, but in a one-game conference final, they weren't able to beat Galaxy keeper Donovan Rickettes.
Then came the 80th minute, when an apparent Dynamo goal off a corner kick was disallowed because of an inadvertent foul in the box.
Now comes the difficult part for any team that's not the champion, which are the hard decisions of the off-season. A cloud hangs over the future of the Dynamo's two brightest stars, Ricardo Clark and Stuart Holden. Both players are free agents and are rumored to be heading across the Atlantic, with reports of Clark going to France and Holden going back to the U.K.
Will they go seek a bigger payday and enhance their skills in Europe, or will the pair stay in Houston where they have a better shot at making the U.S. National Team roster for the 2010 World Cup? If both players head to Europe, who will control the central part of midfield next year for the Dynamo?
Another concern is how Luis Angel Landin will improve next season. The Mexican forward only scored one goal for the Orange since his arrival in mid September. Although he showed incredible first-touch ability, there are questions about his stamina and whether he can handle the physicality and speed of entire MLS season.
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Then there's the whole stadium issue. The city has already purchased some land east of Minute Maid Park where the proposed stadium would be built. The stadium, which would house the Dynamo and the Texas Southern University football team, would be paid for by the team. The Dynamo are asking the city and county to pay for improvements in infrastructure with the use of TIRZ funds, which is separate from the general funds and is often used to spur development in areas like in Uptown and Midtown.
It appears Mayor Bill White won't put the issue to bed before he departs City Hall, so the outcome of the mayoral run-off election between Gene Locke and Annise Parker will be pivotal to the future of the franchise.
The Dynamo have been adamant about keeping the team in a central location, but if negotiations fall through, will the team bite the bullet and move to Pearland or Sugar Land, or will MLS relocate this champion franchise for the third time?
There are a lot of decisions to be made before the start of next season. The Dynamo will four months off before their next game, March 27, 2010 at FC Dallas.