Soccer: MLS Playoffs 2009: Houston at LA
A disappointing game. Houston loses 2-0 to LA in overtime and not in a good way. This game is marked with controversy as twice the lights went out and caused 18-minute game delays. Each time Houston was playing well and the delay threw them off their rhythm and gave the Galaxy time to regroup and get organized. Houston also scored a goal that the ref disallowed for a weak call. Basically two players went down in the box in what looked like standard jostling and the ref blew his whistle late, after Houston put the ball in the goal. The players who went down were off the ball and had nothing to do with the play and many referees would have allowed the goal. Frustrating. Houston finally gave up a goal in overtime on a David Beckham set piece when the Dynamo could clear in a goal-mouth scramble and LA touched it over the line. Certainly not a pretty goal, but one that counts. Houston was still in it, though, as there was plenty of time left, but to give LA credit, they came to life after they scored. Before that they looked beaten and tired, constantly defending Houston's attacks, but the goal revived them as they suddenly started playing much better. Substitute Alan Gordon broke away on the right wing and though he's really not a good goal scorer and shouldn't have worried the back line that much, Houston overreacted and clipped him in the box for a clear penalty which Landon Donovan converted. That pretty much ended it, though Houston did hit the crossbar in the final minute or so.
The bottom line in this one is that Houston, though a very good team, did not quite have that extra something of past years. Though I love Stuart Holden, the team still misses Dewayne DeRossario, who could bring that bit of magic. The team had too many close games this season, especially against teams they clearly outplayed (like this one). In those games the Dynamo were hard to beat but failed to score. One of those games was against LA during the regular season: that home draw was the tie-breaker that allowed this Western Conference Final to be played in LA, and ultimately, with the game going to overtime, that home field advantage was what helped LA win it. I think Houston could have turned it around if LA hadn't revived after their goal: they didn't settle into a shell but started playing better than they had all game, and forced Houston into making desperation mistakes as the away team tried to get back in it. I guarantee if this game had been in Houston, the result would have been different.
All that said, I'm strangely not that depressed. I'm frustrated and annoyed, and certainly disappointed, and I'll definitely root against LA in the final, but Houston did their best and it wasn't quite enough. Ching had a game-winning header that Ricketts pushed over the bar to keep the game scoreless and that was the game right there. The tough calls and awkward stoppages give the Dynamo something to gripe about, but in years past they had the quality to overcome such disadvantages and this year they did not. (Designated Player Ladin, who came on for Oduro, did little. He was slow and still not on the same page as his teammates. If he's the replacement for DeRo, that's not a good replacement.)
Labels: MLS Soccer