The MLS Conference Finals are in the books. Some now quaff the sweet, sweet elixir of well-deserved triumph; others are left to sup on bile and bitterness. So much for DC United, and the sassy, stylish football they were playing when I saw them stand Real Madrid to a draw this summer. Nowak's men were a composed, inventive and ruthless side back then, but they came apart like a Soviet satellite in the season's final months. Even though they picked the league into tiny little crumbs for most of this campaign, not even the most diehard single-table, no-playoffs purists could convince me United deserve to be champions.
Houston, on the other hand, seems to be gelling at just the right moment, authoritatively stamping its mark on these playoffs while everyone else is just white-knuckling through. All credit, though, to the New England Revolution—a gritty bunch, strangers even to the extremely limited glamour the more fashionable MLS clubs attain, that just about always manages to will itself into the championship mix.
Deuce Dempsey didn't make the Revs' squad for the Conference Final, but something tells me the Nagadotches ruffneck will use every trick of homeopathy, positive thinking and Ibuprofen at his disposal to get on the field in Dallas. With New England's Dempsey (undoubtedly) and Joseph (possibly) and Houston's Dwayne De Rosario (maybe) playing their last MLS game, the Cup Final ought to be pretty hot stuff.