CARSON, California (Reuters) - The Houston Dynamo suffered a second straight MLS Cup final loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday - and it hurt.
The Dynamo's 3-1 defeat was not easy to digest after losing to the same opponents, 1-0, last year and after leading at half-time in a enthralling encounter.
"It's all tough. You fight so hard to get into this position. All year long you put all the effort you possibly can, all the hard work, you look back on (that)," said midfielder Brad Davis.
"I'm extremely proud of what this group of guys continues to do, this club continues to do, but without a doubt, it's difficult. It's very, very difficult," he said.
But coach Dominic Kinnear, whose salary budget for his entire squad is less than David Beckham's wage with the Galaxy, was proud of the positive approach his team took in a first half where they had the Galaxy defense in trouble.
"I'm very happy with how the team played and the effort everyone put in," Kinnear told reporters, having led his team to a fourth Cup final in the last seven seasons.
Unfortunately, for the Dynamo, it would have taken much more to overcome a Galaxy side determined to send Beckham off a winner in his final game in the league.
Houston finished in the middle of the Eastern Conference during the regular season before pulling together a strong playoff run.
But the Dynamo could do little to deal with a second-half charge from the Galaxy who erased a 1-0 deficit with three goals after the break.
Houston's prospects of winning became worse when forward Calen Carr went down with a knee injury in the 60th minute after he had initially given his team the lead in the first half.
"It's always disappointing when you lose a guy to injury," said Davis. "He scored a great goal in the beginning and put in a great effort. It was unfortunate to lose him (for) the end of the game."
The Dynamo may have walked off the field tasting the bitterness of disappointment yet again, but this time there was a glimmer of optimism for the future as they rebuilt the side this year.
In 2012, Houston signed Honduran attacking midfielder Oscar Boniek Garcia as well as re-signing tough-tackling midfielder Ricardo Clark.
Senegal's Macoumba Kandji, who came on after Carr's injury, was also a new addition and he left the field encouraged by what he saw from his team.
"We came out well," Kandji said. "We didn't even talk about last year, we just tried to get a result.
"We were right there, but they knocked us down a little (in the second half)."
Editing by Simon Evans and Greg Stutchbury