CARSON, Calif. – It wasn't how the LA Galaxy wanted to head into their longest league road trip of the season.
Losing is never fun, especially when you miss a penalty kick – as Landon Donovan did – but what sparked the greatest dissatisfaction with Sunday's loss to the Houston Dynamo in the rematch of the last two MLS Cup finals was the performance, not the result.
It gives the Galaxy (4-2-2) motivation, if not momentum, as they prepare for games next weekend at Vancouver, midweek next week at Philadelphia and the following weekend at New York.
“This team is good on the road,” said Donovan, who could have put LA ahead in the 25th minute of the 1-0 defeat to Houston with a better-placed shot from the penalty spot. “We actually enjoy going on the road, especially for a week like this. Good team bonding, and we play well on the road.
"We would have liked to win [against Houston], there's no question, but the reality now is it's over, we've got to move on, and we've got a big game now against Vancouver.
The Galaxy were a step behind the Dynamo nearly all night. Head coach Bruce Arena began his postgame news conference by noting “we played poorly tonight and deserved to lose. [It's] that simple.”
LA had played very well the previous two weekends in wins over Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake, but they lost control of midfield early against Houston and didn't create enough with their late push for an equalizer.
“Some nights you just don't have it,” Donovan said. “We need to figure out a way when we don't have it to get a result, and maybe even if we walk out with a tie [against Houston], we can say, 'OK, fair enough, we didn't play well, but we got a point.' To lose the game is difficult, especially at home.”
The Dynamo created more and better chances and limited the Galaxy to just two shots on frame: Donovan's penalty-kick miss and a sharp Gyasi Zardes blast from within the box straight at goalkeeper Tally Hall. Nine more shots, a few of them otherwise dangerous, were knocked down by Houston defenders.
“It's tough to drop a result like this at any time, I feel like, but we're going away from home for three games,” midfielder Mike Magee said. “You want all the points you can get before going on that, because you can have a road trip and only pick up a couple points sometimes – that's how hard it is to win on the road.
"[This is] frustrating for many reasons.”