Two things that deserve never to be mentioned again: Last night’s match and Toronto FC fans

Well, say this for MLS Cup 2010….. no one was killed.

So there’s that.

Yay.

Okay.

Sigh, I’ve got to actually talk about this match?

Jesse Hertzberg from offstage: Yes!

Can I trash Toronto too?

Jesse again: Yes, but try talking about soccer first, please.

Deal! Okay, then let’s break this down, shall we?

The on-field action:
It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t artistic, but for about one-third of it, it was pretty engrossing, which when you consider the two teams on offer in the conditions at hand, was probably about as good as anyone could’ve asked for. The ending was completely compelling as Dallas attempted to come up with new and creative ways to miss chances. Prior to that, Colorado summoned up the spirit of Pippo Inzaghi in scoring two of the most ludicrous goals in MLS Cup history. If for no other reason, I’ll remember the final for that, which is more than I can say for some of those New England finals, right?

I don’t think I’m alone in saying Conor Casey disgraced himself throughout the match only to be rewarded with that goal and unbelievably the final MVP award (only to have is name screwed-up by the VW flack on stage). Casey was like Claude Lemieux out there – just running around the attacking area in the general direction of the ball and then just elbowing, grabbing, or bodyslamming anything that got in his way. On that first half penalty appeal, Casey clearly committed a foul on the defender before getting hacked down in response. It should’ve been a FK to Dallas and then a yellow card to both participants for the subsequent after-party. But any talk of cards, brings us to one of the final’s true enemies – referee, and I use that term extremely lightly, Baldomero Toledo.

Toledo was a joke. He tried to follow the age-old British maxim of “don’t ruin the occasion” but then in true USSF-fashion, ended up totally ruining the occasion. While Toledo was making his Palin-being-interviewed-Couric-face, Dallas but especially Colorado proceeded to turn the game into slightly better-attended version of a Wednesday night “tilt” between Michigan State and Purdue. For those of you who both missed Sunday’s match and have never watched Big Ten soccer, it was grim. I wouldn’t say that Toledo ruined the match because that would be downplaying the role of the hosts Toronto in the entire mortifying occasion. This brings us to the…

Off-field matters:
Let’s start with Toronto. I know from my family who lived up there that it seems to be an inherently decent place, one filled with decent people like my late great-grandmother, Rose.

That proviso being made, allow me to say that Toronto FC fans are officially the biggest bunch of scum, frauds, jokes, and assholes I’ve ever seen in the history of MLS. Seattle fans, you’re off the hook, and off the hook for a long, long time. Reports claim that many Toronto supporters showed up for kickoff and them almost immediately left in a protest against their owners Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) for a) forcing them to buy Cup Final tickets as part of their season tix and b) fielding a fairly mediocre team this year. Look, I’m no fan of MLSE, but this was such an unbelievably bit of destructive and malicious behavior by Toronto fans that hopefully it has ensured MLS doesn’t go anywhere near Toronto for an All-Star Game or a Cup Final ever again. Remember when Michael Wilbon said he’d rather go to Beirut than Detroit for a Super Bowl? Well that now applies to Toronto for any major event.

I know TFC fans seem to have this “love the team, hate MLS” perspective on things; but allow me to remind TFC fans that without the much hated MLS and MLSE for that matter, there would be no TFC and they’d be left watching Serbian White Eagles play Metros Croatia in a high school stadium as genocidal scum on both sides attempt to re-live the “good ole’ days back home” in the streets outside.

Toronto fans embarrassed their club and all of Canadian soccer last night and I’m not even counting the ones who left early during the second half or during overtime. Casual fans are casual fans, but for allegedly real fans of TFC to leave because of their unhappiness with management is a joke and a really big reason to think that maybe MLS should’ve just told the CSA to pound snow and start their own league. I’ll reserve judgement until we see how Montreal and Vancouver are before declaring Canadian soccer totally rotten and asking that Dunc and Gord MacAsshole go start their own league that almost certainly wouldn’t even reach WUSA-level heights before crashing miserably.

One final note, a taunt really, to TFC fans. You might really hate MLS, its structure and its salary cap but you know who loves it more than almost anyone – your ownership. MLS is designed for owners who want a low-risk, low-cost sports investment where even owners who don’t try to win all that much can make a nice return. Who does that sound like? It sounds like MLSE and its main shareholders the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Fund. Pretty much, you’re ********ed, Toronto fans! Your owners absolutely LOVE MLS because even if the fans truly give up on the team (which looking at the Maple Leafs’ history, they never will), MLSE will still be sitting pretty, mired towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference counting its cash. You can yell and scream all you want, but when the best you’ve been able to show for four years is zero playoff appearances, Danny Dichio, and a dilettante German consultant – you’ve really got nothing. Have fun with your mediocrity Toronto fans, and after last night, allow me to speak for every other fan in the league when I say HARDY, HAR, HAR.

Moving on to the two most over-discussed nuggets of the weekend, I think that the playoff format isn’t a total disaster and I think the pro/rel talk is nothing but talk.

While we don’t know the 2010 playoffs’ final form, the addition of two teams through a play-in game actually has the potential for some dramatic action, especially if they are one-game play-ins. As for the shift back to more geographically “conventional” playoffs? Fine, whatever. It makes it less odd and easier to explain. Works for me.

As for the winter calendar. All I learned about that this weekend is that Sepp Blatter must literally be so stupid as to be brain damaged after using some his time with President Obama to bring up MLS playing a summer calendar. If this were any other normal business or non-profit enterprise, we’d tell FIFA and the USSF refereeing clowns to pack their stuff and get out so we could go off, innovate, and find a better way to do things. That MLS and other soccer leagues around the world cannot do this without being declared “REBELLIOUS” is one of the truly, truly stupid things about this sport.

Getting back to the winter calendar, it will never happen. This is all talk, politics, and evidence to those (like me) who think Qatar is now the clear favorite to win the 2022 World Cup bid. This is a move that shows the US is now playing from behind. That said, win or lose, it will never happen. If these “consultants” Garber talks about have even half a brain, they’ll say exactly what I said in a earlier column. It would be a very, very bad move for the league.

Well, that’s it from here. I’m sure I’ll have more now that the draft (otherwise known as the only part of the season that DC United fans are allowed to forward to anymore) is approaching.

Oh and more thing.

Toronto fans: You’re ********ed.

Ha ha ha.

Message to English people in MLS – please think before you whine

Another day, another England ex-pat moaning about the way MLS and American soccer does things. From the Seattle PI:
I’ve said over and over again that I view the Open Cup as a bit of a waste of time and definite third priority beneath the league and CONCACAF Champions League in terms of importance.

But one of the few good things the Open Cup can do is help bring MLS to different venues, including smaller venues like this one in Tukwila, WA. If I’m Seattle, I use these Open Cup matches as a chance to bring my team and brand elsewhere in the upper NW. Why not play this match in Spokane at Gonzaga (who’s putting together quite a nice little soccer facility, btw). Why not play this in Anchorage (only a 3 1/2 hour flight away)? Imagine what kind of event this would be up there.

I’ve always said that DC is right to play its “smaller” matches in Germantown or even in Richmond. I know there is a legitimate argument that the last things MLS teams need with their crowded schedule is more travel, but I think the benefits are worth it. Especially for teams that don’t own their own stadiums, the benefits really outweigh the “risks.”

But going back to Smith’s moaning, what does he think he can accomplish by this kind of self-serving moan? There is no tabloid media here to pick up on this with a “SMITH RAGES AT SOUNDERS’ FIELD FLOP” headline. All it does is make the whiner sound like exactly that.

Gomez deal is finalized… and it might not be that bad… maybe.

So United has finalized its deal with Colorado to bring Christian Gomez back to RFK. In what really does feel like a do-over, DC sends them Ivan Guerrero, the 2nd DP slot, and a 2010 2nd round pick. Behind the Badge is also reporting that United additionally received 23-year old goalkeeper Mike Graczyk, a international roster spot and salary cap considerations.

While it’s being written that Colorado will be picking up a portion of Gomez’s big salary, I need to know how much that really is before declaring this deal merely not awful, or pronouncing it as truly dumb. If Colorado is eating a lot or most of his salary, then it’s a risk United felt it could take but one that won’t bankrupt the club long-term. I don’t mind parting with Guerrero that much either. He was going to be gone with Honduras a lot this summer. Finally, I am not a believer in the theory that a team can do well while carrying two DPs. I just feel it strangles the flexibility that an MLS club requires during the season.

Obviously, the two big questions on Gomez are these:

  1. Does he have anything left in the tank as it stands, or was Colorado justified in benching him?
  2. If he does have anything left in the tank, can the coaching staff work out a way to make it last throughout the season with a minimum of under-performance or flat-out injury?

This move temporarily tapes over one of United’s gaping flaws. Now the front office needs to buckle down and fix this defense. No one can sit here and judge this offseason before seeing what United does with the center of its defense. As it stands now, this probably is not a playoff team. We’ll see if the front office realizes that.

More Gomez Thoughts …

… Kind of off the cuff.

Although, I’m not sure the shirt I’m wearing has cuffs, but anyway.

Upon initially reading yesterday on Goffblog about the possibility (or “hunch” as Goff called it) that designated player and sometimes midfielder Marcelo Gallardo could be on his way to Argentina, thus opening a spot for DC United to bring back Christian Gomez from Colorado, I wasn’t thrilled about it.

It’s a bit of a dangerous slope as a DC fan (which I am) to speak out against Gomez. He played at a high level at times for the club and was a fan favorite – partially because he spent part of a game drumming with supporters (he was suspended so he couldn’t actually play). I wouldn’t slight his effort during his prior time in DC.

But I’m finding it hard to drum up support for this move – if it were to ever take place. I don’t know that bringing an aging midfielder to replace a, well, um, aging midfielder, is such a great idea. It’s one that could pay dividends through the first 2-3 months of the 2009 MLS season. But after that? What happens when Gomez, playing every game to run the attack, wears down? What happens if he gets injured? What happens if United’s attack relies on an aging Gomez and an aging Jaime Moreno? Does the club expect Luciano Emilio to return to 20-goal form?

Until the fatigue and the injuries set in, it could work really well. But then, I see it falling apart in the final 10 games of the season. What happens when, after this decline, United misses the playoffs again?

Then, you’re stuck with a midfield creator who is yet another year older; no younger player who has been groomed for that position; and perhaps, you now set the needed rebuilding effort back even further – creating the possibility of ruining your 2010 and 2011 seasons. This, in a league that’s only getting bigger by the year and as such, leaving more and more teams out of the playoff promiseland.

Look, I thought United had a good draft on first glance. They have a key piece of the puzzle secured in retaining Clyde Simms, and even the Bryan Namoff re-signing is a good move, in my humble opinion.

My concern is that signing Gomez may not only cause heartbreak and regret at the end of 2009, but slow the team moving forward such that future years are bankrupted, as well. Having a bad season is no sin. It happens to everyone. But not learning from what went wrong in that bad season such that problems repeat themselves, causing a 5-year pattern of suckness, that’s inexcusable.

We’ve seen what happens when you bring in an aging midfielder and give him the keys. Often, the car turns into a rusted out ’65 Comet, sitting on cinderblocks in the front yard. And you have to go to Argentina to fix it.

I’m hoping we don’t see a repeat in 2009.

A Gomez Restoration?

For the past two weeks the MLS rumor mills like MLS en Espanol and others have been full of stories saying DC’s Argentinian bust Marcello Gallardo was on his way back home. I never once believed it. No team, even one elsewhere, would take him, his huge wage demands, and his Mr. Glass-meets-Darren-Anderton-inability to stay healthy. Now for the first time we see a “credible” source say that Gallardo might be on his way out of RFK.

Count me as legitimately surprised that there is interest in the guy. As Goff says, United would love to be rid of the guy. If he were to come out and struggle (or not get out of the trainer’s room) early this season, he would likely take hold of the much-feared “Albright Cup” for the current United player most despised by the home fans. With two-time winner Rod Dyachenko on his way to the USL, the trophy would have wasted little time finding a new owner.

The second part of Goff’s hunch that surprises me a lot less is this thought of a Christian Gomez “restoration.” This is a move that United has perfected over the years as they grab seemingly-finished former players off the scrapheap and try to return them to the level of their former glory. Sometimes it works brilliantly (Jaime Moreno, Santino Quaranta) and other times it doesn’t work so well (Raul Diaz Arce, Roy Lassiter).

I am unsure which column a “restored” Gomez would find himself in. The player who left DC could not play 90 mins, seemed to fade late in the season and appeared only interested in passing to one player (Moreno) for large periods of time. That said, when Gomez was “on,” he was simply amazing to watch. And if there was ever a team stupid and mismanaged enough to leave Gomez on the bench despite having something left in the tank, it’s the Rapids.