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MLS Cup Rewind

Although MLS Cup '09 was not an artistic masterpiece, it did provide wonderful theater and storylines in crowning Real Salt Lake as champion.

A reserve goalkeeper did almost enough in PKs to hand the trophy to the Galaxy for a third time. Nick Rimando won a tiebreaker for the second time in a week and added a second championship ring to his collection. Jason Kreis validated RSL's decision to hand him the coaching duties immediately after retiring. Landon Donovan, the most prolific scorer in national team history and a lethal penalty kick shooter, missed the entire frame, a la Roberto Baggio in the 1994 World Cup final. And of course there was Seattle's match presentation, which provided a big-event vibe to the league's marquee match and an attendance figure (46,011) that exceeded expectations. As of a day ago, organizers had planned to cap tickets at 42,000.

That said, how fitting would it have been to see Andy Williams convert the winning penalty kick (he faltered) after all he and his family have endured in his wife's battle with a rare form of leukemia? Or if Clint Mathis, one of the enduring characters in American soccer history, had scored in overtime?

Read my match account with quotes.

Why did RSL's Will Johnson leave the game at halftime? He was weakened by food poisoning since Saturday night. Why didn't the Galaxy's Dema Kovalenko play? He was ill all week and didn't have the strength to commit to playing most of the match. Before kickoff, Bruce Arena was planning to insert him around the 70th minute, but goalie Donovan Ricketts' exit with a hand injury and the fact that the game was tied ruined that idea.

For comments from Commissioner Don Garber on a variety of topics.....

Garber, on Galaxy executive Tim Leiweke's claim that MLS is preparing to allow a third designated player per club: "It's clear that the L.A. Galaxy is a big proponent of the designated player rule, but I can assure you that no decision has been made and frankly no discussions are going to be held at the board level on the designated player rule or the salary budgets or any other things related to what we spend on players until after we get through our collective bargaining agreement negotiations. Those discussions are on-going, they've been productive, we understand and accept the fact that it's going to be a tough negotiation, but we are very committed to putting together a deal that will be good for our players and for management so that we can continue to together grow the sport."

On Montreal's expansion cause: "The ownership group is here [in Seattle for talks]. We are making progress. We hope to have a 19th team in the league by 2012 and Montreal is still the leading candidate. But we have got some work to do, most importantly, that stadium needs to be renovated and expanded. It's probably not suitable for an MLS team today. We are going to work with the Saputo family and the provincial government and try to make some progress in funding a renovation."

Some Insider loyalists have asked me about St. Louis or South Florida. Simply, neither has offered a strong enough financial plan to become an expansion contender.

On MLS Cup being played on artificial turf: "We don't really have much of a choice here. It's fair to say this is a pretty good place to host the MLS Cup. If the alternative was not doing it here and playing on grass [elsewhere] or playing it here on artificial surface, I think all of us would agree that it should be here."

Garber did add, however, that, if the neutral-site format continues, Seattle will not host MLS Cup again for several years, presumably because of interest in other suitable cities.

MLS is clearly trying to find a way to drop the neutral-site format and award the final to the highest-remaining seed (based on regular season points). Said Garber: "We are getting to the point where fans matter more than anything else and the home fan deserves the right, whether it's in a small market like Kansas City or a temporary stadium like San Jose, to host a final. That's what we are trying to manage through."

By Steve Goff  |  November 23, 2009; 3:16 AM ET
Categories:  MLS  
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Comments

Some thoughts on the match, in no particular order:

1) Soccer just doesn't work on artificial turf. Real Salt Lake dealt with it better than the Galaxy did, since they had experience at the Rice-Eccles granite surface. LA looked completely out of their element with respect to the turf.

2) Other than his assist, Landon Donovan was a non-factor.

3) Beckham looked like he was still banged up. Gave ball away repeatedly, and was off most of the night.

4) LA has too many Donovans -- Landon Donovan, Donovan Ricketts, Todd Donovant, and special honorary player Donovan McNabb. ;-)

5) Props to the 40,000 or so Seattle supporters who came out for the match. I have to admit I thought many of them would stay home, but they were there. They plus the few thousand Galaxy and Real partisans made for a great atmosphere. That said, festooning the MLS Cup with Sounders colors on broadcast graphics was a little over the top.

6) Two of the most disappointed people in the entire stadium over the match result were apparently JP Dellacamera and John Harkes. I like both of those guys as announcers, they generally do a good job. But once Salt Lake won they sounded positively glum. I'll take Phil Schoen's ebullient "DC United stands alone as CHAMPIONS of Major League Soccer!!!" over JP's dour, downcast "And the underdogs have won..." any day of the week (and not just for partisan reasons).

7) If a match ends in a tie after regulation and overtime, I have no problem with PK's. They are dramatic, and can be done relatively quickly. I didn't see anyone, even among the neutrals, heading for the exits before the PK's were concluded.

Posted by: Ron16 | November 23, 2009 6:36 AM | Report abuse

MLS and Don missed their chance to have their crowning moment yesterday. The one where the photos go out over the world of Donovan getting the cup and the confetti cannons before handing it to #23.

Instead, we have a team that lost 12 and won 11 out of 30 to get where it is right now. Champions. Or at least that's what it says.

I understand it's complex and single table won't work for a television situation in that you lose the marquee event that they pay the most for. But playoffs are a crap shoot and no one should ever scream now when their team loses anything before August. MLS only really runs August - November.

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood | November 23, 2009 6:37 AM | Report abuse

VBB, true, but at least Don G & co had those two in the game, and they milked that for all it was worth.

If playoffs are a fact of life (and likely they are for MLS) it may be time to restrict the number of teams to something like 6, conference winners and 4 wildcards.

Posted by: Ron16 | November 23, 2009 6:51 AM | Report abuse

"Two of the most disappointed people in the entire stadium over the match result were apparently JP Dellacamera and John Harkes."


Harkesie's BeckhamIsGod swoonings got old in about the 11th minute. But it didn't stop there- nope, EVERYTHING the LA Galaxy has ever done is vastly superior to every MLS team. JP would feed him a line about RSL's great run to the Championship game, and Harkesie would turn it around and talk about the Galaxy.

I love Harkesie for his giggle in the Confederations Cups against Spain, but I'm not really digging his excessive praise for the Galaxy.

Posted by: kdiff813 | November 23, 2009 7:02 AM | Report abuse

Glad to see a good team win, and I think RSL was a very balanced team over the year. They might not have many big name players but they do have a very nice blend of talent.
It was bizarre the way the game turned out: 3 major injuries, some MLSian goals, and PKs being lost by Donovan kicking it over the bar.

Posted by: douglasquaid | November 23, 2009 7:22 AM | Report abuse

Some Insider loyalists have asked me about St. Louis or South Florida. Simply, neither has offered a strong enough financial plan to become an expansion contender.

What about Atlanta? I'd say, if Arthur Blank has thrown hit hit back in, or is still considering it, he has the money. The stadium is still an issue -- the Beat were supposed to announce their new shared stadium months ago, but that is still absent. That would only be 7k.

Posted by: Reignking | November 23, 2009 7:25 AM | Report abuse

Overall, it was a good advertisement for the U.S. game. Some halting play for periods, but at times some good ball movement from RSL as well. Only disappointments for me were that DCU ever let Rimando go, and seeing that great stadium Seattle has compared to DC's situation.

Posted by: dougenglish | November 23, 2009 7:51 AM | Report abuse

I agree with what Chest is going to write.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | November 23, 2009 8:05 AM | Report abuse

I caught about 15 minutes of the game. Between Amazing Race and the Eagles game, I can only watch so many things.

My wife did enjoy the name "Ricketts", though.

Posted by: Reignking | November 23, 2009 8:09 AM | Report abuse

The turf wasn't an issue for LA. The problem was that they had poor tactics and got weaker as the game went on.

Galaxy started very strong and appeared to outclass RSL at the beginning, when RSL looked like a glorified pub team. RSL appeared stunned, physically smaller and disorganized. Their only hope appeared to be to score on a counterattack.

Galaxy should have driven home their advantage and been more aggressive but failed to do so. Sitting on a one goal lead with another half ahead of you is very risky. At a certain point RSL realized that they weren't going to get blown out. They got stronger and used some good pace to develop chances. The RSL goal was scrappy looking but they deserved it.

If the turf were a problem for LA they would not have started well and bossed the first third of the game.

I saw quotes from Arena blaming the "wet and cold." It wasn't that wet or cold, and the conditions weren't much different than you would find in England this time of year where they seem to cope just fine. Excuses.

LA did look very good at the beginning though. Their goal was class.

Impressive support from LA and RSL supporters, who were noisy in a good way with drums and chants. I always like that.

46k attendance : )

Posted by: rice1234 | November 23, 2009 8:12 AM | Report abuse

VBB, true, but at least Don G & co had those two in the game, and they milked that for all it was worth.

If playoffs are a fact of life (and likely they are for MLS) it may be time to restrict the number of teams to something like 6, conference winners and 4 wildcards.


Posted by: Ron16 | November 23, 2009 6:51 AM | Report abuse

Actually, the number of teams in the playoffs is not the issue. Next year, only 50% of the league will qualify and, as expansion takes MLS to 20 teams, that percentage will drop to 40%, the same percentage that qualifies in the NFL, which is widely perceived as having a very meaningful playoff qualification.

The issue is that, once you get into the playoffs, regular season records are thrown out the window. The RSL run this year is the perfect example. This will only be rectified if the first round is switched to a one game playoff with the higher seed hosting. Also, if MLS Cup goes to the higher seeded team, that will also help tremendously. If last night's match was played at the HDC, the Galaxy would have won, no question.

Posted by: jofij | November 23, 2009 8:21 AM | Report abuse

Congrats to RSL. Something that stings about their MLS Cup win is that it could have easily been DCU. They made it in the last day of the season as the 8th team and last seed in the East--that could have been DCU given our very favorable end of season schedule with all those home games. They played the Crew (who we've played even with or even outplayed all season) and Wryzacha benches Schelotto in game on. They then play chicago at home (we're good against Chicago recently and the Fire are so-so at home). I'm not arguing we were a lock to make the finals or even win. Only that this was obviously as good year to be the 8th team. Players just don't have that many legitimate shots for a championship in their body, teams don't stay together a long time. This could have been one of those years. So the failure to put it together at the end of the season as to be especially galling.

Posted by: JoeW1 | November 23, 2009 8:36 AM | Report abuse

jofij, It is an issue. The fact that you cite percentages that are not yet in effect attests, in part, to that. Furthermore, what prevents MLS from increasing the number of playoff participants? Could very well happen,
which would keep MLS closer to the NHL model, which most observers agree has too many teams qualifying for the playoffs.

In any case, I think your suggestions for home field advantage for the higher seeded teams in a single-elimination format would be helpful.

Posted by: Ron16 | November 23, 2009 8:39 AM | Report abuse

JP Dellacamera is bad. Phil Schoen is much better. Get Ray Hudson the great in there also.

Posted by: jdickinson187 | November 23, 2009 8:45 AM | Report abuse

I'm just frustrated still.

It works for me but I know it doesn't work for many others. The idea that you crown the season champion as Champions of MLS and then turn the end of season playoffs into an everyone in the pool (20 MLS Sides, eventually) and lower league qualifiers into a 5 week - 32 team League Cup single elimination tournament.

Ack - oh well. There's good and bad to it all.

1.33 points per game. That's what our champion acheived this year. The worst in MLS history. I guess at least it has removed DC United's 2004 squad as the previous lowest point earning champion.

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood | November 23, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

@jofij

RSL won in Columbus and in Chicago. What makes you think they couldn't win at HDC? Changing the 1st round to a 1-game situation wouldn't have changed the outcome either.

I'm most amazed that a team that won only 2 of 15 road matches during the regular season won 3 consecutive times away from
home to take the title. Also, I agree that I would like Findley to have a chance to see if he can become Charlie Davies Lite at the national level.

Posted by: dimesmakedollars | November 23, 2009 8:59 AM | Report abuse

I explained my feelings about RSL winning last night on the match thread, so I won't do that again here.

I agree with what I-270 wrote.

Also, if Montreal is going to be the 19th team, we need to start thinking about who is gonna be the 20th, since Garber says that's where they're capping it. I still think Atlanta would work, and should be the spot. Anybody got Unlce Arthur's email?

Posted by: JacobfromAtlanta-ish | November 23, 2009 8:59 AM | Report abuse

I thought the surface had little affect on the match. If it was cold and raining, a grass pitch would have been slick as well.

RSL played a few early balls over the top that ran out the endline, but more often managed to ping the ball around on the ground.

This wasnt Giants stadium with the ball bouncing around waist high for 90 minutes. Thats not soccer.

Love the fact RSL plays with 4 guys in the middle who all want the ball at there feet. Beckerman could pick up the ball in his own box, and with a few 2 or 3 touch passes, RSL would be up the field with the Galaxy trying to keep track of all the guys buzzing around the middle.

Posted by: srfinger | November 23, 2009 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Garber is capping expansion at 20. Until, of course, someone comes along with an expansion fee and a realistic-*sounding* stadium plan.

Posted by: Ron16 | November 23, 2009 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Put the cup in the city with the highest average attendance. Yes it's crass and "non-sporting," but who cares? It's a young league and it gives a nod to the entire organization and puts an expectation on each MLS team that it's what's on the field And what's in the stands.

Posted by: DCUinCT | November 23, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Glad to hear that some others also felt like JP and Harkes were openly pulling for the Galaxy. The way that RSL was pinging the ball through midfield throughout the match would have made most commentators rave about them. At times, it was mesmerizing. Yet, nary a peep about it out of JP and "Harksie".

I think that it's stipulated in JP's contract that whenever Beckham or Donovan are on the ball, he has to say their name loudly and show increased enthusiasm.

Posted by: Phil_McCracken | November 23, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

The Galaxy looked old and slow midway through the second half. Had RSL's midfield been classier, they could have shredded them.

Becks was hardly moving and Landon was playing 3/4 speed. Kirovski wasn't a factor and Klein didn't offer much.

Meanwhile Findley, Espindola and Grabavoy had legs but are missing that bit of talent that should have seen the Gals put away earlier.

Posted by: delantero | November 23, 2009 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Note to DC management: While you were trying out three mediocre keepers this year, the guy who was too short, slow, and old for you just won the MLS cup.

Posted by: JRandomReader | November 23, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

""Note to DC management: While you were trying out three mediocre keepers this year, the guy who was too short, slow, and old for you just won the MLS cup.""

For the record . .. AGAIN . .. Troy Perkins beat out Rimando for the starters spot. At the time, we didn't need two starting class keepers.

Troy is a better keeper than Nick. That's why he' playing in Europe and in the National Team pool fighting for a spot in South Africa. Nick is not.

Posted by: delantero | November 23, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Probably would've been better for the league if LAG won. But RSL were better last night and deserved the win.

Posted by: DEFPOTEC1 | November 23, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

A great win for the league and for US soccer. Yes, Virginia, a team of hard working ball winners can (and should) beat a team of superannuated, overpaid media darlings. MlS GMs please take note!

Posted by: Jphubba | November 23, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Congrats to RSL!

I shared some of the "good ole days" feelings watching Rimando excel -again - in a PK situation, and my wife also asked "why did DC let him go again?" However, I also saw a reason why he lost out to Perkins: the cross that he absolutely 100% missed, leaving him floundering, only to be saved by Gonzalez's horrible touch at the back post. Could easily have never made it OT or PKs.

"6) Two of the most disappointed people in the entire stadium over the match result were apparently JP Dellacamera and John Harkes... But once Salt Lake won they sounded positively glum.

Posted by: Ron16 "

I agree, and it was throughout the game, not just at the end. I generally enjoy those two announcers, but when Findley and Ricketts collided, JP's first comment (before the extent of either player's injury is apparent) was something like 'the biggest concern is Ricketts.' Pretty clumsy announcing, to say the least.

Posted by: CDRHoek | November 23, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

To follow up on delatero, Nicky is clearly an excellent shot stopper and a big gamer--he always comes up huge in penalty kick situations from 2004 to the playoff this year. That said, those situations seldom arise in the regular season and Nicky struggles with positioning, flaps at crosses, and has difficulty with distribution. I'd take him back in a heartbeat (I'm a sucker like that), but penalty kick shoot outs are tailor made to inappropriately lionize his abilities.

Posted by: vivzig | November 23, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

If it goes to PK's, RSL will win. Rimando is excellent in pk's and gives them the huge advantage.

My prediction: 2-2. RSl wins in PK's.

Posted by: spikeman | November 22, 2009 7:46 PM | Report abuse

================

Good call spikeman

Posted by: OWNTF | November 23, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

To me the X factor LA lacked was Kovalenko. RSL had their way in the midfield for most of the 2nd half and all the overtime periods. That possession took the juice out of LA, and I think Kovalenko could have shut down a lot of that empty space RSL was enjoying.

Posted by: edgeonyou | November 23, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Landon didn't kiss all his fingers.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | November 23, 2009 12:24 AM | Report abuse
====================

HA!

Posted by: OWNTF | November 23, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

I want to put two previous comments together here - without a doubt, there needs to be more seeding in the playoffs to give a major advantage in the regular-season standings. But that still allows for RSL-like Cinderella stories. Is that such a bad thing? RSL won four games in a row, three of them on the road, two against the Supporter's Shield winner. They earned it.

And the league's parity this season makes it much more difficult to argue that one team deserved it more than another. Not only was RSL in a three-way tie for the final spot with United and the Rapids, but they were only 9 points behind Columbus. For comparison, #1 Man U finished 18 points ahead of #4 Arsenal, and #1 Barcelona finished 20 points ahead of #4 Atletico Madrid.

RSL showed they had the skill and the mettle to win when it counted. And for that, they deserve MLS Cup.

Posted by: VercengetorixII | November 23, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Fun game to watch for the most part. An old friend of mine posted a picture of Party Boy and Stuey Holden on her facebook page just for me...;-) In her own words, there were a Lot, a lot, a lot of RSL fans there. She seemed impressed with their travel support and said even without the Sounders in it, she had a great time.

It's been a bummer of a season for us DCU fans, but I'd like to think that there is some light at the end of the tunnel here somewhere. Looking forward to juicy head coaching news.

Are we going to see Richie Williams get the head job and Benny Assisting?

Posted by: DadRyan | November 23, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

It works for me but I know it doesn't work for many others. The idea that you crown the season champion as Champions of MLS and then turn the end of season playoffs into an everyone in the pool (20 MLS Sides, eventually) and lower league qualifiers into a 5 week - 32 team League Cup single elimination tournament.

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood | November 23, 2009 8:50 AM

+1

20 clubs, single table with the Supporters Shield really separated and meaningful. Tough to squeeze in 38 matches, but that guarantees 19 home matches plus any international/Cup play. Then 16 clubs qualify for a March Madness style knockout tournament in November - higher seeds with home field - one and done for the Cup.

Posted by: Kev29 | November 23, 2009 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Did anyone else realize that the two teams in the finals did not participate in either SuperLiga or the Champions League. I 100% guarantee that neither of these teams will be in the final next year. MLS still has ways to go.

Posted by: RedskinAddict | November 23, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Kreis deserves plaudits for a tactical switch at halftime. In the first half, he had Beckerman in an advanced role and Williams as the holding MF. Beckerman was in a crowd when he got the ball, and Williams was hitting a lot of his passes long and direct.

Kreis switched them at halftime and it led to RSLs vast improvement in possessing and attacking. Beckerman added to the defense and was able to trigger the counter-attacks -- either by dribbling upfield or making excellent passes to other midfielders. His withdrawn role was defended poorly and he was often able to sneak into the attack unmarked.

Rimando may have been named MVP, but Beckerman was my man of the match. Beckham and Donovan had a few moments, but Beckerman outperformed them over 120 minutes.

Posted by: runningcloud | November 23, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Did anyone else realize that the two teams in the finals did not participate in either SuperLiga or the Champions League. I 100% guarantee that neither of these teams will be in the final next year. MLS still has ways to go.

Posted by: RedskinAddict | November 23, 2009 10:18 AM

An excellent point. The Champions League group phase MUST be eradicated. No one wants to watch the matches and it kills the thin squads.

Posted by: Kev29 | November 23, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

". It's fair to say this is a pretty good place to host the MLS Cup. If the alternative was not doing it here and playing on grass [elsewhere] or playing it here on artificial surface, I think all of us would agree that it should be here.

If I am correct..
This is the neutral site list in the past 15 years
LA area 4
DC 3
NE 3
Dallas 2
COlumbus 1
Seattle 1

umm does anyone see missing teams that have not hosted a Cup Final and noticed that LA has held it four times.

"Garber did add, however, that, if the neutral-site format continues, Seattle will not host MLS Cup again for several years, presumably because of interest in other suitable cities."


Garber is a hypocrit.

Posted by: TheWashDipsSince88 | November 23, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

@delantero: all true, but why oh why haven't we been wooing Nick since Perkins left?

As for the game, I noticed Beckham's passes were not as accurate starting before the RSL goal (maybe around 60 min). I also noticed he flinched away from Findley's scoring shot and a couple of tackles around the same time. He must have been in a lot of pain through the whole second half.

Finally, if it weren't for Berhalter and Dellagarza, it would have been over in regulation time. (Sorry, Saunders, you were brilliant, but...)

Posted by: ldmay | November 23, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

I went up the MLS Cup from DC and speaking as someone who was at the game, it was damn cold and very wet. Heck the only time it didn't rain in the last week was a couple of hours before game time and the game itself.

And don't tell me its just like England, I was born there and I can tell you it was very cold and windy. The conditions did nothing to elevate the game.

I'm not a big fan of LA but wow I thought RSL was a pretty poor team except for Beckerman their 2 centerbacks and Nick Rimando.

RSL is a very defensive and negative team. I remember counting over 20 passes played in the back before the ball moved up to midfield. That's ok if its a change of pace but not if that's the way you play.

And for those who talked about Donovan not being a factor, he was mugged everytime he started to see the ball. I thought the ref gave RSL a very free hand to make this a very physical match particularly off the ball.

Maybe despite our losses we in DC have been spoiled with the style and level of play, because RSL was plain ugly. It may look different on tv but in person I came away from the game thinking, and with all respect to those who think RSL is "balanced", this may be the worst MLS team ever to win the Cup.

The other memory I will take from this cup is that I have tip my hat to Seattle and their fans, they were fantastic and have really raised the bar for support.

Posted by: dcufan531 | November 23, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

"Troy is a better keeper than Nick. That's why he' playing in Europe and in the National Team pool fighting for a spot in South Africa. Nick is not."
-------------------------------------
Delusional. Troy is playing in the Tippeligaen. Norway? Give me a break. Meanwhile, Rimando just won his league...AGAIN.

Posted by: JRandomReader | November 23, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

RSL is a very defensive and negative team. I remember counting over 20 passes played in the back before the ball moved up to midfield. That's ok if its a change of pace but not if that's the way you play.

======================

Caveat -- I haven't watched the game yet -- but if it is true that one team allows the other to bang it around 20 pings without applying pressure, one might argue that the team out of possession was at least as defensive and negative . . .

Posted by: OWNTF | November 23, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

No one has mentioned Clint Mathis. I saw him make one poor pass. Every other one was perfectly weighted and on target. He and Beckerman ruled the midfield in the second half.

And old Berhalter and young DeLaGarza were just fine last night.

Posted by: b18bolo | November 23, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

@dcufan531: I recall the sequence of passes you mentioned. My husband and I agreed it was exceptionally tedious soccer and far too early in the game to be playing "pass around the back". Ugh.

Posted by: ldmay | November 23, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Congratulations to Salt Lake on a well-deserved championship. The game itself wasn't of the greatest caliber but it was entertaining enough and the PKs were pretty riveting.

Those of you who wish for a single table can follow the EPL (or some other league w the single table format) where great drama arises over the question of whether an outsider can crack the stranglehold of the top 4 teams.

I think MLS enforces parity a bit much but I'm fine with allowing the 8th seeded team a run at a championship trophy. Playoffs are the American Way (as well as the Mexican Way and a few other Ways). As long as the fans can get into it, the league should stick with a format that guarantees late season excitement while still rewarding merit.

Posted by: Joel_M_Lane | November 23, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

thanks, Garber, for sticking up for the fans on a home-site final.

Posted by: nairbsod | November 23, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

@ldmay: You make some good points. But regarding Nick Rimando, DCU can't "woo" a player under contract to another team. Whois to say DCU did not try to get him back in backroom trade talks, but Real rightly wanted to hang onto him so likely there was not a whole lot DCU could do to get him.

Posted by: Ron16 | November 23, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Not a final to remember. LA looked spent and the overall play of Kirovski and Magee gave no punch to the squad. Ref Stott as usual is clueless about letting play go on after a foul and so delinquent in not enforcing the encroachment rule on free kicks. Over 40 whistled fouls and no caution to Beckham for taking out Morales with a late kick on the ankle while Stott was several yards away from the infraction. And what about JP Dellacamera spouting, "it could have been dangerous" or getting excited about nothing. As usual the TV commentary by JP and Harkes borders on total irrelevance. How can these two talk about trivialities throughout the game is mind boggling.

Posted by: juke2 | November 23, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Why oh why is Kirovski still employed as a soccer player? Seriously.

Posted by: vivzig | November 23, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Okay, okay, nice turnout by the Seattle fans and all but . . . is it true that after the game they all ascended into the sky through beams of sunshine that blazed down upon the land through a parting in the clouds??

Posted by: fallschurch1 | November 23, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

@fallschurch1: No. It was night when game ended.

Posted by: Ron16 | November 23, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

But the choirs were singing, right?

Posted by: fallschurch1 | November 23, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

I thought it was an entertaining match. Well played by both sides considering the elements and turf (and no matter how good the turf is, it changes the game).

I also think ESPN is doing a good job covering MLS games and soccer in general. Its not great, but good.

For example, Mike Magee scores arguably the biggest goal of his life, and the camera goes to Landon and Becks celebrating. I equate that to the Vikings defense running back a fumble for a touchdown and seeing nothing but Brett Favre.

The big picture is there (showcasing the match on prime time tv) but things need to be tweaked to make it awesome.

Posted by: SoccerVA | November 23, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Delusional. Troy is playing in the Tippeligaen. Norway? Give me a break.
Posted by: JRandomReader

Delusional? Hardly. People think a pk stopper makes a good goalkeeper.

Rimando is 2 foot 2. He's a good shot stopper, but a better keeper than Perkins?

No way, no how. Rimando has had 1 MNT call up. Perkins has had 6 caps and even more call ups. Oh, and Perkins is clearing 500,000 K for his little Norwegian league, too.

Posted by: delantero | November 23, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

@fallschurch1: Yes, and they were clad in red and blue RSL shirts and scarves.

Posted by: Ron16 | November 23, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

1. I like Nick Rimando--always thought he was a very good GK. But folks, he ASKED to be traded. When it was clear that he was #2 behind Perkins (and that was fair--Troy just beat him out), Nick wanted to go someplace where he had a chance to get playing time. He got hosed at RSL (where Ellinger had him on the roster but wasn't even practicing him), was on tryout with NYRB and only RSL brought him back when Garlick retired. And then it was only b/c Seitz had the Olympics that year and would be gone a month or two. So now Nicky has another ring and a couple of scalps--good for you little man! But anyone who wants to use this as an excuse to beat up on DCU management is either clueless or has a short memory. To me Nick Rimando is a good example of smart DCU management--he was beaten out by young cheap talent we spotted and then unlike RSL and NYRB, we treated him with class.

2. A close and exciting final. But good soccer, it wasn't--especially by RSL. I'd love to have Beckerman on any team I coached. But this team does play to put guys behind the ball and then counter. You can say it gets results but mostly it doesn't--if DCU hadn't imploded at the end, RSL would be staying home this year. And this was a good year to be a #4 seed--Columbus was slumping and THEN their coach sits Schelotto. And then you get to play the team with the worst home record in the playoffs at their home (Chicago). Not an easy path but by no means a nightmare one either.

Congrats to RSL.

Posted by: JoeW1 | November 23, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Very entertaining game and the better team won.

I love the game of soccer but the purists really need to shut up about the single table format and regular season champion. This is America and Americans expect a playoff format. MLS cannot cater to the purists as they are going to support the league whether there is a playoff format or not. The market they need to reach is the more casual fan and the more casual fan expects playoffs in their sporting events. RSL is no less a champion than any other sport where a long shot won the championship ('06 Carolina Hurricanes, '06 Pittsburgh Steelers, '85 Kansas City Royals, and '78 Washington Bullets). A MLS playoff format is not going anywhere anytime soon so just get used to it.

Posted by: croftonpost | November 23, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

MLS cannot cater to the purists as they are going to support the league whether there is a playoff format or not. The market they need to reach is the more casual fan and the more casual fan expects playoffs in their sporting events.

Posted by: croftonpost | November 23, 2009 2:48 PM

I'll respectfully disagree with this point, croftonpost. I think that's a 90s American soccer point of view. MLS loses "purists" money year after year - some may call them "Eurosnobs", but plenty of people watch global soccer over MLS here in the US.

Not only that, but I think the casual fan you refer to has actually been more allured with soccer abroad more than their local MLS teams of late. Look at ESPN boosting their World Cup coverage and adding the Premier League - the casual American sports fan is starting to pay attention (one small example; Bill Simmons). Joe Six-pack is more likely to drop Real Madrid into a bar room conversation than Real Salt Lake.

If anything, MLS has realized this in the Garber era and taken steps to go more "purist" (draws are accepted, more traditional kits, naming, stadium design, etc). Even an NFL guy like Garber got it - make MLS a soccer league, not a minor league.

They're not going single table because it's too difficult in terms of scheduling - not for philosophical and marketing differences.

Posted by: Kev29 | November 23, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Is "purist" the same as "Eurosnob"?

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | November 23, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Is "purist" the same as "Eurosnob"?

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | November 23, 2009 4:03 PM

I don't know - I'm not a nativist when it comes to American soccer. And personally, I think it's silly to call an Anglophile a Eurosnob - English people hardly consider themselves aligned with mainland Europe. But I digress...

Posted by: Kev29 | November 23, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone think it might be possible for John Harkes to just go a minute without talking.

He just never stops talking. And while some of it is useful, most of it is repetitive. He must have mentioned 20 times yesterday that Landon Donovan was named league MVP, the first time that's ever happened.

It really gets on your nerves.

Posted by: DavidRaether | November 23, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

In the traditional school of American sports commentating, the job is to talk incessantly between commercials. The ones who are good at it do not repeat themselves. Soccer goes for 45+ plus minutes between commercials and exposes the weaknesses of the traditional school.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | November 23, 2009 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Not only that, but I think the casual fan you refer to has actually been more allured with soccer abroad more than their local MLS teams of late. Look at ESPN boosting their World Cup coverage and adding the Premier League - the casual American sports fan is starting to pay attention (one small example; Bill Simmons). Joe Six-pack is more likely to drop Real Madrid into a bar room
conversation than Real Salt Lake.

If anything, MLS has realized this in the Garber era and taken steps to go more "purist" (draws are accepted, more traditional kits, naming, stadium design, etc). Even an NFL guy like Garber got it - make MLS a soccer league, not a minor league.

Posted by: Kev29 | November 23, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I agree with your point about Real Madrid vs Real Salt Lake. However, IMO this is because MLS is viewed by many as a minor league product and fans want to view the major league product not the minor league product.

I also agree that MLS has taken steps to go more purist in some respects. However, I believe this has as much to do with the outrageous names, kits, and ridiculous stadium size than anything else.

I still maintain that most American sports fans want and expect a playoff system. I don't think crowning a regular season champion would work here. Can you imagine if they crowned the winningest regular season MLB team the champion. It just wouldn't fly. This country loves playoffs. PLAYOFFS?.......PLAYOFFS? :)

Posted by: Gambrills4 | November 23, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

My bad. Sorry about the confusion. I'm on my friends computer and posted under his user ID not mine.

Croftonpost

Posted by: Gambrills4 | November 23, 2009 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Ron16 "

"When Findley and Ricketts collided, JP's first comment (before the extent of either player's injury is apparent) was something like 'the biggest concern is Ricketts.' Pretty clumsy announcing, to say the least."

I was also trying to figure out why the announcers didn't really care about Findley's injury as both were writhing on the ground. Odd and a bit inconsiderate to say the least.

Posted by: bstring | November 23, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse

I'd be sad if they did away with the neutral Cup location. I've been to every MLS Cup, there's a bunch of other SEs who have been to all or almost all and we always have a great time. If you have to wait until the teams are determined to make your travel arrangements it really gets expensive (we usually set up the SE Cup trip in August). The host city supporters clubs usually set up some get-togethers (or in a bar-filled town like Seattle you can find your own fun).

K

Posted by: goaldigger | November 24, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

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