CARSON, Calif. -- If this was any other year in Major League Soccer's history, the Houston Dynamo and LA Galaxy would have played the MLS Cup final at a neutral location. Unfortunately for the Dynamo, it is 2012.
This year was the league's first to hand home-field advantage in the MLS Cup final to the higher seed. As a result, the Dynamo faced the Galaxy at the Home Depot Center -- the same venue as last year, when it was still a predetermined site.
The Dynamo finished just a point behind the Galaxy in the regular season, meaning one more win would have seen them hosting the final. Still, the team refused to bemoan its luck following a 3-1 defeat.
"It's tough to come and play on the road in front of a crowd on like this," Dynamo captain Brad Davis said after the game. "But I think the atmosphere is better and I think it puts an emphasis on doing well throughout the season."
Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear was also in no mood to blame the loss on his team's surroundings.
"I think when you play and you're on the field -- and obviously Brad knows this better than me -- you don't hear the crowd, unless there are pauses during the game. As far as this goes, I think the league is trying to give a home-field advantage for the final, instead of going to a neutral site. I don't think it's a bad idea."
After a final like the 2010 MLS Cup, which featured the Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas facing off at a half-empty BMO Field in Toronto, the league felt the combination of a guaranteed sell-out and an extra reward for regular season performance was too much to ignore.
"America is so big, sometimes when you have two teams playing in a neutral city, it might be a little too far to pack the house," Kinnear said. "I think you're guaranteed a sell-out which is what you want. It's a great exclamation point for the most important game of the season, it looks great on television and I think you reward the team that's higher."
Though the Galaxy were the higher seed, they were only the league's eighth best team in the regular season; the Dynamo were ninth. The league has faced criticism of its playoff format, but Kinnear believes a low seed making a late run is a positive development -- and one that is uniquely American.
"People have asked questions about the playoff system and how the eighth and ninth team could be in the final and how it's not very fair," the Dynamo boss said. "But no one says that about when a NFL Wild Card team makes it to the Super Bowl. It's American sports, and I love it."
The Dynamo can have their complaints about the events on the field, but they won't say a negative word about the field's location. Because, with any luck, they could be the team hosting MLS Cup next season.
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