HOUSTON – Fifty days. That's how long it's been since the Houston Dynamo walked off the Home Depot Center field after dropping a 3-1 result to the LA Galaxy. Time hasn't healed all wounds.
Speaking with media on Monday after their first training since the loss, Dynamo players and coaches were clear that the game is in the past. But the lessons learned and feelings felt, however, are still with them as they embark upon their 2013 season.
“The first couple of weeks, it was in the back of my mind,” Ricardo Clark admitted during Monday’s preseason press conference. “Making it so far in the playoffs and coming up empty kind of sucked. It is what it is and we kind of move on.”
Moving on is something the Dynamo had to do last season as well. It has been back-to-back, close-but-no-cigar finishes for Houston, both times dropping a result to the LA Galaxy on their home turf. But this experienced group is looking to turn those battles into a positive as they look to clear the final hurdle this time.
“This year, there’s a sort of motivation to get it done,” said Clark, who rejoined Houston last summer. “We got a taste last year – well, these guys got a taste the last two years – so we want to make that happen. It’s a long season, though, so digging into the brains of everybody right now will be a little too much. But it’s definitely in the back of your mind.”
One of the issues in the back of Houston’s collective mind may well be a missed opportunity to host the decisive match. In the current playoff format – which remains for 2013 – the higher-seeded team hosts the Cup final, a chance Houston missed out on by two points in 2012.
That serves as a reinforced lesson as the season approaches. For defender Bobby Boswell, it was missed points at home against Portland and Columbus that stick out.
“I look back at games where we dropped points and I think we could’ve picked them up,” the center back said at the press conference. “I would never change the road that we did. … Had we won those [games], we could’ve been hosting the final. It’s easy to look at things in hindsight. To me, that’s an important lesson.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.