The best player on the D.C. United roster was on the bench, watching, waiting, sitting in the same spot he's been sitting for over two months now.
This year's leading scorer was absent from the field as well. United was forced to play the second leg of the Eastern Conference Finals without Chris Pontius and with Dwayne De Rosario available only for a brief substitute appearance.
The best player on the Houston Dynamo was on the field though. On one of the only good chances that Houston earned all game, Brad Davis managed to cut through the United defense and feed Oscar Boniek Garcia to give the Dynamo a three-goal aggregate lead in the series. It was a lead that would prove to be insurmountable for a United team that was forced to play without so many major pieces.
Down three goals, United had to get desperate, and they had to start hurling in crosses against a Houston defense that is custom-built to deal with that exact attacking style. Without Pontius and Andy Najar, the ground game wasn't happening for United. And yet that's still where the team found its goal, with Branko Boskovic making a strong run up the middle and finishing a play he started.
It was enough to preserve the undefeated streak at RFK Stadium, but it wasn't enough to extend the season.
The series wasn't lost tonight though. It was lost a week ago. It was lost when Canada failed to protect De Rosario, when Najar threw a ball at a ref, when Bill Hamid took out Kenny Cooper, when Pontius, Marcelo Saragosa, and Brandon McDonald all suffered injuries in the same match. We could only overcome so many injuries and suspensions at the same time.
We'll have plenty of time now to reflect on the playoffs and on this season as a whole. Obviously there are tons of positives to take from the 2012 United side, from Hamid and the improved defense to two wingers leading the team in goals to Ben Olsen joining the MLS coaching elite. But for now, let's just congratulate D.C. United on a fantastic season. We really enjoyed the ride. And it's also worth congratulating the Dynamo for a professional and well-played series. We wish you the best of luck in the next round against whatever dreck the Western Conference has to offer.