CARSON -- Major League Soccer's playoffs are all about who's hot. Meet the Houston Dynamo.
The Eastern Conference's MLS Cup finalist has won seven of its last eight games, running up a 14-4 scoreline, and the run included a 3-1 rout that wasn't nearly so close over a makeshift Galaxy side in the regular-season finale two weeks ago.
The Dynamo have one of the league's best coaches (Dominic Kinnear), a galvanizing veteran forward (Brian Ching), a midfielder with a rocket shot (Adam Moffat), a rising star in the back (Geoff Cameron), one of MLS's best netminders (Tally Hall) and, for the first time all season, decent health.
What they don't have is the league's best player.
Brad Davis' quadriceps tear suffered in Sunday night's Eastern Conference title victory at Sporting Kansas City, will keep him out of the Nov. 20 showdown with the Galaxy at Home Depot Center.
“I'm done. I tore my quad,” he told the league's website after Houston's 2-0 triumph. “I know I'm finished, but the thing is I've been saying for the past few weeks that not a lot of people expected us to be here, and the heart of this team -- I couldn't be more proud to be part of this team.
“I was saying that if my season ended, I'd be disappointed, but I'd still be proud of the year.”
Davis, sort of an American David Beckham with his ability to serve balls from the left flank and on set pieces, was hurt on a rather innocuous play, battling for a ball in midfield with Sporting's Graham Zusi. There was minimal contact, and, he said, “it was just one of those freak things.”
“I turned and felt my quad pop,” said Davis, an MLS MVP finalist who started all 36 MLS matches for Houston and led the league with 16 assists. “It stinks to go all year and no injuries, and worst possible time to have something happen, it happens.”
Kinnear, in his postgame comments, called it “a huge blow, he’s a big part of what we do on set pieces and in the run of play. He’s an excellent player.”
Ching, who was on the 2006 World Cup team and has been with three MLS Cup winners in Houston and San Jose, told The Houston Chronicle that he was “crushed for” his teammates.
“He's had an MVP season,” Ching said. “He's the reason why we're at this point in the season. To see him go down [near the end of the first half] kind of took a little life out of us for the rest of that half, unfortunately. But having said that, no one piece is bigger and more important than the entire team. The guys stepped up. We've done that over the past two months, and hopefully we'll continue to do that.”
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena says Houston will be a tough foe, Davis or no Davis.
“He's an important part of the Houston team, but the little I saw -- and I didn't watch in any kind of detail -- is they just got stronger and stronger [against Sporting] in the second half. They're going to be a real tough team to play against. ...
“Houston finished second in [the East], beat the hell out of us a couple weeks ago. Beat what I understand a lot of people thought a team that could win the MLS Cup, in Kansas City, and they went into Kansas City and deserved to win that game. They're going to come into Los Angeles thinking that they're going to win the next one as well. It's going to be a real battle.”