If ever there was a textbook way of how to go about winning an MLS Cup, the LA Galaxy were the perfect example Sunday night. Their game plan was simple: buy high-priced prima donna players, sign over-the-hill veterans to accompany them, bring in a head coach whose best quality is stroking egos, and wait five years to win the cup.
Last night at the 2011 MLS Cup, the five years were they waited for finally came to fruition as they won cup, 1-0, at the hands of the Houston Dynamo.
The Dynamo came into the game without their MVP finalist, Brad Davis; and the lack of class was evident throughout the match. It wasn't the first time the Dynamo missed a star player in the Cup Final. In 2006 they were without Ricardo Clark, who sat out the final because of suspension in their penalty-kick victory over the New England Revolution. He sat out again the following year, along with an injured Brian Ching in the 2007 MLS Cup. The difference between those years and 2011: the Dynamo had enough class around the team to make up for those losses. On Sunday night, they were outclassed by a team whose payroll more than doubled their own.
It's hard to say if the Dynamo would have done better with Davis on the pitch. They struggled to take the game to the Galaxy, a problem they didn't have against the Philadelphia Union or Sporting Kansas City. The Dynamo rarely created chances that threatened the Galaxy goalkeeper.
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Even in the 1-0 loss Sunday night, there is a silver lining for the Dynamo. Their defense, by and large, did a superb job. Even though they were getting shredded on the left side by David Beckham and Landon Donovan, they held the Galaxy scoreless until the 72nd minute. The Galaxy themselves didn't really get many opportunities to score, and that's credit to the young Dynamo defense.
Looking down the road, the Dynamo have a lot to learn from Sunday's finale. They have a strong defense they can build around. With the opening of their downtown stadium next year, they should be able to lure a big-name player to help Davis in the attack. Lately there's been talk of bringing in Mexican striker Giovani dos Santos, whose hasn't gotten much playing time with English side Tottenham Hotspurs.
Whatever happens next year, the team can be proud of their 2011 accomplishments. No one had them going to the MLS Cup Final. Yet there they were, standing toe-to-toe with one of MLS's all-time best teams.