I'm sure much has been made of Real Salt Lake being such a "team" team that, for the first time ever, there are no players for the MLS champs on the MLS Best XI. But there's a more prosaic answer to that – the Best XI was wrong. Olave should have been in the back line ahead of Conde (or better still, De Rosario – does anyone in the league even play a 3-5-2? So the Best XI should have four defenders. QED).
Now that Jason Kreis is a genius all of a sudden, it's going to be very interesting to see whether the 2009 Royals are the 1996 DC United (a .500 team that got hot late and founded a dynasty) or the 2005 Galaxy (a .500 team that fluked their way to the final and vanished without a trace). I think they're closer to the DC United model, but they had to flip a coin twice against teams they should have beaten in regulation.
Again, I don't want to take anything away from the Royals. They're not one of the league's all-time greats, but presumably they knew that before Sunday. The Galaxy could have played much better, and Salt Lake probably still could have won. It wasn't an upset.
They may have been only the least undeserving that could have won the title, but compared to the Galaxy, they were completely worthy winners.
…and I had a great "RSL is SOL" headline ready, and everything.
However, let's talk about the Galaxy for a quick second.
Boy, that Landon Donovan, what a choker. What a loser. He can't do anything right…um, apart from putting a ball right on Magee's foot for the first goal. That was the only play that Donovan made all game, but holy mother of pearl. If that's Landon being second-rate and average, then I feel great about next summer.
I know, I know. What if Landon has to take another penalty kick in a shootout after extra time? Well, that will mean we've made it to an elimination game, so I'm probably going to say then what I'm saying now – without Landon, his team doesn't get anywhere near that far, so if me misses the occasional PK after two hours of carrying twenty people, c'est la guerre.
No, I've got a bigger problem with the Galaxy playing the second half, especially after Findley's goal, as if they'd be happy with penalties. With their backup keeper. As it turned out, Josh Saunders wasn't the problem in the slightest. In fact, we should promote his nickname from "Colonel" to "Brigadier General." (I know it defeats the purpose of the nickname, that's not the point.) When your backup keeper saves two penalties in that situation, it's on the kickers to come through for him, and they didn't.
Again, it's easy to blame Donovan in that situation, but the Galaxy should have been a lot stronger mentally even before he missed.
Beckham even made his, which will presumably fail to delight England fans who remember 2004. Berhalter out of nowhere turned out to be surgeon from the penalty spot. That's two guys you probably wouldn't have thought would be locks to convert, so that balances out Donovan's unexpected miss. I'm pretty sure RSL didn't think Beckerman and Andy Williams would miss, either.
The larger issue is why the Galaxy played for penalties at all. There wasn't anyone watching who wouldn't have given Salt Lake the advantage in a penalty kick shootout, even with Ricketts in the net, and perhaps even if Donovan had made his. After all, Salt Lake had literally just finished winning a penalty shootout, and you have to feel confident they had been practicing penalties that week.
Speaking of Donovan Ricketts, and this is something I can't believe hasn't gotten more howls of outrage.
I'm trying not to shriek like a branded gibbon about this, because I don't have the medical experience. I honestly don't know how hard it is to tell a "contusion" (the word used in the Galaxy's official blog) from a "fracture."
No, you can't really compare that situation to you or I sniffling in pain with an emergency room. It's not in our interest to hide a fracture. Ricketts easily could have misled his training staff, hoping it wasn't a fracture, hoping to stay in the game.
Still – I want a trainer to be able to tell a break from a bruise. If that's unreasonable, then I'm willing to be enlightened.
Does Ricketts save the shot ten minutes later with a healthy hand? Maybe not, that RSL goal sequence was a complete frog orgy on the part of the Galaxy defense. But I sure don't feel good that my team asked its goalkeeper to defend a one-goal lead with a broken ********ing hand.
And maybe it's unfair to blame the training staff for one little mistake – what's this?
…playoff shares and championship rings for the Galaxy training staff, then.
And an extra little gold star for whoever decided that Beckham was good for fifteen minutes, and played him for a hundred and twenty. I don't want to name any names, but I think the person responsible is getting an award early next year from the City of Hope. I'm assuming City of Hope is more diligent about curing cancer than the Galaxy is about keeping their players healthy.
…but this is all about Salt Lake. Shame their fans had to see it from the same third deck I was in, presumably because they thought they'd be used to the high altitude. Fan seating was something less than awe-inspiring for both sets of supporters, but Salt Lake fans really seemed shafted.
However, I can say with confidence that RSL should not respond in kind. In fact, when Seattle visits next year, the Salt Lake front office should make a special effort to offer Sounders fans their pick of the very best seats anywhere in Rice-Eccles Stadium.