For a team already playing without its best player in MVP finalist Brad Davis, it was an injury along the back line that was the turning point of MLS Cup 2011.
In the 31st minute on Sunday night, Houston Dynamo defender Geoff Cameron battled for a ball in the box with Galaxy forward Adam Cristman. With Cameron falling backward, the LA striker clipped him on the play, resulting in an injury for the Houston star that left its mark on the match.
“It was an awkward thing,” Cameron said after the match with his right knee wrapped in ice. “I got up and I tried running around a little bit, and it got really, really stiff, and I felt a little bit of weakness in it.”
At halftime, Dynamo team doctors informed Cameron that he had suffered a Grade 1 MCL strain in the same knee in which he tore his PCL in an abbreviated 2010 campaign. Reassured that he would not do any further damage to it, Cameron gritted his teeth through the pain and came back out.
“He said he was fine but, ‘Keep an eye on me,’” Houston manager Dominic Kinnear said of the halftime discussion with Cameron. “And then it was, ‘Well, if you have to play conservative, that’s what you have to do.’ He wasn’t his normal self. He made a couple of good early runs in the first half, and then after that [the injury] he had to hold his position. So the injury did affect the way he played.”
“It felt weak, and that was the only thing,” Cameron revealed. “I couldn’t hit some balls over the top because I felt a sharp pain. Tried to dull the pain a little bit. Other than that, I fought through it. I still thought I defended fairly well.”
Kinnear indicated that Cameron’s inability to contribute in the attack resulted in stretches in which the Dynamo were caught deep in their own half.
It also cost Houston on Landon Donovan’s game-winning goal in the 72nd minute, when Cameron was left chasing the ball as it bounced toward the goal line. The big defender was clearly struggling to change direction, and he admitted that if it were not for the injury, he might have gotten to the ball.
“I think so,” he said. “I think [the injury] hindered me a little bit of being able to chase him down, because my first step wasn’t the quickest. But saying that, I was still on the field, and I’m not going to make any excuses. I thought the angle was pretty tight for him, and he ended up slipping the ball through.”