Given Sunday

Possible moral: "Age before beauty" doesn't work in the playoffs.

Wade Barrett is getting the blue whale's share of blame for the Red Bulls loss, but no defender is responsible for getting shut out at home. New York had one of the poorest defenses in the league, certainly the worst in the playoffs - and some of the most deadly clutch performers in MLS bounced off them like raindrops. This would never have happened if Dwayne De Rosario were alive.

I wouldn't have thought Ryan Cochrane and Joseph Ngwenya would have been impossible to replace - after all, Adrian Serioux and Paul Dalglish weren't. Yeah, Kamara and Boswell didn't accomplish much against New York, but it's not all their fault, either. Seven out of ten starters in last year's MLS Cup also started Sunday, two more were on the bench. Those same seven starters also started MLS Cup 2006. The Red Bulls, meanwhile, met for the first time in the Robertson Stadium locker room.

Furthermore - for the first time since 2004, they* didn't lose game one of the first round. What was there to worry about? These are the Comeback Kids! Admit it, after the third goal, weren't you thinking "Hm, Houston's cutting it close this year." When the whistle blew, it was as if they ended the old Batman series with Adam West and Burt Ward in a pool of their own blood.

This time, familiarity bred contempt.

So are the Dynamo aging gracelessly, or are they going to come back angrier than ever next year?

Maybe both. The West is shaping up to be at least as horrible next year as it was this year. If Kinnear once again forgets to motivate his troops - something after 2005 you think wouldn't have been necessary - then the Dynamo could easily stroll into the playoffs next year as complacent as they were on Sunday. It's easy to picture De Rosario showing up for a regular season again, and it's easy to picture Eddie Robinson returning to his elite defender status. Pat Onstad apparently more likely to demand a trade to the MLS Whitecaps than have a bad season. Stuart Holden should finally maintain a starting spot.

Then again, Craig Waibel has been singlehandedly defying the rise in the league's talent level, I don't have a whole lot of faith in either Boswell or Ianni, and the bench is a bunch of guys named Wondolowski.

They'll go into next season as white-hot favorites in the West, probably go back to MLS Cup, maybe win again. Does Tony Parker ever show up to Dynamo games? They could ask him what it's like to be part of a dynasty no one can quite admit exists.

*Yeah, I'm using "they" to include Quakes 2.0. League historians will have plenty of time to differentiate between the two. I'm sure, just to be annoying, the Quakes 3.0 will get really good all of a sudden, and so differentiating the San Jose teams with Yallop coaching and Cannon in goal will be that much more aggravating.