As the seconds ticked away in the Houston Dynamo's 1-0 loss to the LA Galaxy in MLS Cup 2011 on Sunday night, it was tough not to look at the visitors’ bench to see team MVP Brad Davis in sweats and wonder, “What if?”
What if Houston's MVP had not been hurt? What if the LA Galaxy defense had been unable to dominate the tempo of the game? What if the Dynamo had generated more set-piece chances and had Davis there to deliver?
They’re all questions that revolve around Houston missing their attacking engine and coming up short in the biggest game of the year.
“He’s a guy that could make a difference,” concluded Adam Moffat, who took over free-kick duties from Davis. “Maybe that’s what we were lacking: that creative spark and a guy who can split the defense. But we knew he wasn’t going to be playing, so it was something we prepared for, and the guys stepped in and played well. There’s what-ifs, but we have to do with what it was.”
Houston struggled to sustain its attack and connect passes in its own half of the field. The most devastating blow was that those struggles extended into the final third, where Davis has come through for the Dynamo time and again when the club has searched for offense in the past.
“Brad does things that no one else on our team can do,” said goalkeeper Tally Hall, who made two saves on the night. “He’s consistently excellent. To miss a player like that hurts, but that’s the way the game presented itself, and we have a responsibility to get the job done no matter who’s on the field.”
Houston had done that job before, having missed key players for their MLS Cup wins in 2006 (Ricardo Clark) and 2007 (Clark and Brian Ching). Unfortunately for the Dynamo, it was not to be on their third try, as that final bit of magic to get the job done never materialized. With Davis looking on, it was tough not to imagine the type of impact make with his team looking for that elusive final goal.
“It would’ve been good for him to be out there, but he wasn’t,” said Ching. “It’s unfortunate for us and fortunate for them. I think we missed him tonight.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.