Countless column inches have been dedicated to Houston’s style of play and on-field attitude, all of which seems tailor-made for the MLS postseason. That certainly didn’t change after Sunday’s second-leg draw that sent the Dynamo to MLS Cup.
But character is forged when no one is watching, and Houston ensured they would bring steely determination to RFK Stadium during training leading up to the match.
While most teams would take it easy after a hectic few weeks, Dominic Kinnear’s charges went after it. And by the time they took the field on Sunday, there was little doubt that they’d finish the job.
“I would say one of the hardest practices we’ve had was two days ago,’” Bobby Boswell said. “Guys were kicking each other and it was almost like, ‘Hey, don’t hurt anyone before we go.' It was kind of like, ‘Why are we practicing so hard?’ We were going after each other.
“It was guys wanting to play. [Kinnear] hadn’t named the lineup yet, and guys are fighting to try to get on the field. Some guys are trying to stay on the field. We had such a hard week of practice that we got to the game and it’s like, ‘OK, let’s go out there and get it done.’”
2) This is a better Houston side than the one that lost to LA in 2012
WATCH: Davis reacts after final whistle
In the last edition of MLS Cup, Houston pushed a dominant LA side to the brink at the Home Depot Center.
They did that without Brad Davis, Ricardo Clark and Boniek García. That’s all you need to know to be convinced they’ve got as good a chance as any to hoist the Cup this time around.
Davis brings the pinpoint service, Clark the bite and Garcia the unpredictable bits of magic that should have Dynamo fans hopeful their third title is just two weeks away.
And although they finished fifth in the East, it’s easy to forget Houston was one of just five sides in MLS with fewer than 10 defeats. They finished sixth in goals scored as well.
My point? Just because they weren’t fancied at the beginning of the postseason doesn’t mean they won’t finish it with yet another trophy.
Chris Pontius played all of 12 minutes vs. Houston. Dwayne De Rosario played 28. Andy Najar, who earned himself an ill-advised suspension in the conference semifinals, didn’t play at all.
And yet, D.C. United was still within reach of MLS Cup. With a few better touches, a tidier finish or two and a bit more help from the referee, Ben Olsen’s young side certainly could have replaced Dominic Kinnear’s veteran campaigners on the podium Sunday night at RFK Stadium.
Of course, that didn’t happen, not this year at least, but Olsen and the exuberant fan base that made the second leg a spectacle have plenty of reasons to be hopeful for 2013.
The most compelling of those reasons? United are stocked with young talent. Starters Nick DeLeon, Bill Hamid, Perry Kitchen, Chris Korb, Najar and Pontius are all 25 years old or younger. Brandon McDonald is just a year older, entering the prime of his career, and De Rosario’s chaste lifestyle should give him at least a few more productive seasons.
The one noticeable hole in the roster is an elite goalscorer, a center forward to bring out the best in the players surrounding him. Can they fill that hole in the offseason? We shall see.