The Sacrificial Lamb was Carrying a Switchblade

Unbeknownst to the rest of us, apparently the Houston Dynamo has been grabassing NYRB's girlfriend:


All of which is a pretty good depiction of how the RedBulls treated a supremely confident Houston team, whose fans showed up en masse to admire their shiny red Stingray and ended up hoping they didn't get anything splattered on their shirts.

(Of course, after she entered witness protection and became Tony Soprano's shrink the jerk would have gotten even worse from Paulie Walnuts, poor schmuck)

Apparently somebody forgot to remind the Bulls that the script said "lovable bunch of losers provides a nice little scrimmage for the defending champions on their triumphant march to a third consecutive MLS Cup".

The Bulls hadn't won a game since around Easter, had stumbled into the playoffs like an 8th Avenue wino, and had been so unimpressive playing to a draw at Giants Stadium the week before that the only question was how soon Juan Carlos Osorio could get his bags packed..

Houston meanwhile was playing at home, on grass, in front of a large, enthusiastic crowd who paid good money to watch their beloved Boys in Orange sack-stomp the pathetic losers from New Jersey. The only question was whether Kinnear would be pulling his stars before or after halftime as they swanned their way to an equally dazzling victory over Real Salt Lake on the same field seven days later.

Well, tell the University of Houston they can go ahead and book that Billy Graham Crusade - the Dynamo won't be needing Robertson Stadium next Saturday after all.

There are a lot of things you can say about the game itself, but the key point, to me, is this:

People mostly talk about Houston's offense, based on dazzling ball movement and elegant play making as the reason for their championship run, but it's always been the defense that got that outfit where they wanted to be.

But when that defense is willing to let themselves get into footraces with Dane Richards time after time, it - like a lot of other MLS defenses - is going to lose.

Some people are talking about how, after the University of Houston game on Saturday, the field was rolled within an inch of it's life in an effort to smooth out the turf, and how this hard, fast surface played more like the artificial turf in Giants Stadium. Well perhaps, but it didn't make Houston's back line suddenly slow and, more importantly, slow to react. They did that themselves.

Osorio, for his part, came in with maybe the only game plan available to him: play smash mouth soccer, keep the ball away from the playmakers, knock them down when that doesn't work and let Richards run straight at their suddenly very shaky-looking back line.

But maybe the most remarkable aspect of the game was that Kinnear pulled out all the stops after the half, binging in Ashe, Holden and Jaqua and committing to 100% all-out offense to try and make up the deficit, but New York's defense, under a withering fire reminiscent of the 29th Div. on Omaha Beach, bent and bent and bent some more, but never broke.

Why is it almost no one sees the crash landing of a dynasty until it unfolds in front of their eyes? Why do you seldom hear that a team which has been dominant in their sport for years is beginning to look a bit long in the tooth and is ripe for a crash landing?

Moreover, how will Houston fans, who were handed the best team in the league all neatly wrapped up with shiny ribbons and bows, respond if their side is suddenly relegated (to coin a word) to dreaded mediocrity like everyone else?

The bottom line was that most observers were so blinded by the gleam off the Dynamo's big pile of hardware that they overlooked the fact that this team has been having trouble scoring goals for two years now. They picked up Joseph Ngwenya last season and he got them over the hump before departing for greener pastures, but his replacement, Kei Kamara, doesn't worry much of anybody. His work rate is questionable, he doesn't like getting hit and he has a bad tendency to disappear just when you need him most.

For their part, while the RedBulls can be applauded for pulling off one of the singularly shocking results in MLS history, their fans - sometimes referred to as "the faithful" - probably ought to be a little redfaced over all of this. They can crow all they want about how "everybody said we were dead" and "nobody gave us a chance" but in this case "everybody" includes 99.9% of RedBulls fans themselves.

As for Real Salt Lake, whose front office staff was undoubtedly up all night putting together a marketing strategy for a game they had no idea they were going to be hosting - you can put them squarely in the "we had no idea this would happen" camp - they need to be careful about making non-refundable reservations for LA.

A win like the one NY pulled off on Sunday often puts one hell of a stiff wind into a team's sails. If Juan Carlos O-let's-see-you-fire-me-now can manage not to send out some bizarre lineup he dreamed up during an ether and grain alcohol binge, it could very well be NYRB fans scrambling for overpriced short-notice airfare to LAX come next Sunday morning.

And who in hell would have imagined that?