All you who criticized Bruce Arena, said the game had passed him by, said he relied too much on old veterans…all you who said Dema Kovalenko was a one-dimensional hack…all you who said there was no way Ricketts or Berhalter would make it through the whole season…all you who said that Beckham and Donovan couldn't work together…all you who said a team starting two rookies in the back line couldn't win…well, where are you now? All these naysayers and non-believers – where are you now? Huh? Yeah, that's right. Looks like SOMEONE owes the Galaxy an apology.
I'm guessing no one before the season predicted a Galaxy-Salt Lake final. Houston and Chicago fans are entirely free to demur, but I thought the semifinals were pretty intense. To me, this shoots down the idea that parity means the games are boring. Each of the teams were flawed in some ways, none of them played perfectly – but that's part of the intensity. I suppose it's because I had a fan interest, but I thought this year's playoffs were very exciting.
And as far as fans being put off by average teams in a playoff crapshoot…well, you know, maybe all those tickets in Carson and Bridgeview were comps. I know the Galaxy were offering a lot of specials for the playoffs. But both games still filled a lot of seats, despite the nationwide broadcasts. Seeing Toyota Park rocking, after years of playoff attendances slipping from regular season averages…at some point, anti-playoff folk will have to acknowledge that the marketplace has spoken.
And that point was Friday. Not to be insanely cynical about it, but playoffs have finally given MLS their Beckham Final, and nearly gave them their Beckham-Blanco final.
Maybe some year, a New York-LA final will be sunk in the playoffs in favor of Portland-Cedar Rapids. Until then, though, the playoffs are staying.
How perfectly have the playoffs worked for MLS? Even during two blackouts, the ad boards stayed lit. That's AEG for you – play the game, don't play the game, whatever. But for God's sake, keep the commercials going.
I don't think Salt Lake has changed at all from last year, at least in the playoffs. The opponent got a freak goal last year, didn't this year – that's about it. I have to think the Galaxy saw how Movsisyan and Espindola shoot under pressure in big games, and sighed with relief.
And you know what? Jason Kreis putting Grabavoy in at the last second was stupid, utterly stupid. A waste of a substitution. This was a game where there was absolutely nothing separating the teams, and Kreis has one substitute – a literally irreplaceable pair of fresh legs, a last chance to change the course of the game, and the franchise. And he saves it for two seconds left in the game on a player who bears the proud title of "Earthquakes reject," just in case the penalty kick shootout goes to shooter number freaking SEVEN.
I don't care if it worked. That was the dumbest coaching move I've seen since Steve Sampson put in Pando Ramirez in the 2005 MLS Cup.
As far as Houston – well, you have to feel for them. No goals allowed in regulation in the playoffs, after all – something's going right. I'm tempted to put all the blame on Landin, on the grounds that a Designated Player has to contribute more. But, well, look who they were playing. And the Dynamo have won metal with Brian Ching and Insert Name Here before. This was more about Berhalter, Gonzalez and especially Ricketts holding the line. What a world of difference from the first Chivas game. I actually thought Dominic Oduro's speed would make the difference, but I think lots of things. At least Red Bulls fans won't have the embarrassment of seeing one of their castoffs compete for MLS Cup.
Oh, the disallowed goal. Okay, there are two tests you should run in your head before complaining about calls, depending on whether you think it should have been a call or a non-call – the Azteca or the Columbus.
If you think the ref should have blown the whistle…if an American had committed the same foul in the Azteca, would you also think it should have been called?
If you think the ref should have let play on…if a Mexican player had blah blah Columbus you get the concept.
Anyway, no way in hell the Houston calls pass either the Azteca or Columbus test. Sorry, Dynamo. The good news is, you're only a player or two away from a championship. Maybe it'll be Landin HA HA HA HA I slay me.
So it'll either be Beckham or Beckerman. Spare a thought this week for Rapids fans, who are in for absolute hell no matter who wins.