So, another Major League Soccer season – the 13th in fact – has come and gone. Raise your hand if you thought you’d see 13 consecutive seasons of MLS.
Anyway, the Columbus Crew are champions, and deserved ones at that in my humble opinion, after their 3-1 win over the New York Red Bulls on Sunday at Stade de Home Depot. Despite New York having the better of the play early, I don’t think they did enough over the course of the game and eventually the class of Guillermo Barros Schelotto took over and it was painfully obvious that the Red Bulls had nobody in their lineup (and it’s no shame, many teams didn’t) that could contain him.
His class, of course, was summed up on the Crew’s third goal – his lofting, soft pass flying over the top of the back of the Red Bulls defense and into the path of Eddie Gaven Frankie Hejduk, who put it away in the late going for victory. It was clutch for the Crew, of course, because at 2-1, there’s still no guarantee that referee Baldomero Toledo won’t screw up the game somehow in the final minutes and for the match to somehow end up level.
I thought the Crew came out a little flat early in the game. And for whatever reason, they had trouble finding GBS in the attack. I don’t know if this was because of a defensive tactic by New York (I kinda doubt it), and we didn’t get to see the whole field to know what was going on – and surely, you weren’t going to find out by listening to the commentary.
But amazingly enough, if you looked at the start of the play that led to Columbus’ first goal – you wouldn’t think the New York defense did anything wrong. The Red Bulls were in possession, but the ball came free to the near sideline. There, it looked like Dave van den Bergh just kinda gave up on the play – thinking I guess that the ball was going out for a New York throw-in, so why did he need to keep working? Well, GBS outworked him, pinning DvdB in a double team that eventually led to GBS working the ball away. His lead ball then for Alejandro Moreno allowed the latter to go one-on-one with his defender, beat him to a shooting spot, then beating goalkeeper Cepero with a shot just inside the far post. It was that moment of laziness from DvdB that really cost the Red Bulls to start with, compounded by the inability of the defender to slow Moreno down (hell, foul him 40 yards from goal). You can’t have moments like that in a final – especially if GBS is on the other team.
Credit New York for getting level through John Wolyniec. His goal has landed him an endorsement deal as the new Mr. Gray in the next series of Just For Men commercials starring Keith Hernandez and Walt Clyde Frazier. “Woly goes for the gold … Oooooh … no MLS Cup for the dude who looks old.”
For the season, I certainly can’t say I saw the Crew’s title coming. But they got the job done and full credit to them. I don’t think there can be much argument about who the best team was this season. And that would have been the fundamental problem had New York won the final. No one in their right mind could accurately argue that Red Bulls were the best team in MLS this season. I’m glad they didn’t get the trophy.
I would suggest that Don Garber hire me as a public spokesman. First, I need a job. Second, I wouldn’t have just about called the winners of MLS Cup the Columbus Screw. Third, I would have known who the captain was for the winning team (but maybe not the third goalscorer). And I’m more than willing to spend my days explaining the MLS vision to soccer fans around the world and the Internet. Hire me, sir!!