So I'm watching the tape of the Saprissa-Atlante game - crap, I need a spoiler image.
So I'm watching the Saprissa-Atlante game, and basically it was basically Atlante trying to play with eleven, then ten men, against twenty thousand. Yeah, if you're going to be an idiot about it, Saprissa beat Atlante on the field. But really, Atlante wasn't going to win that game any more than Bret Hart was going to beat Shawn Michaels at Survivor Series '97. As with everything Jorge Vergara is involved with, pro wrestling comparisons are apt, if not obligatory.
In a match where the Atlante players and bench nearly got into a full-on brawl with Saprissa officials behind the goal, here was the official match report, which I have only mildly paraphrased:
The referee for the match was long-suffering MLS ref Alex Prus, and it's difficult to see what he could have done to assert control. When an Atlante defender is struck by a missile and has to have his head bandaged, clearly control has been lost, and the proper course is to call the game and to award Atlante the forfeit. Prus may have been concerned with the minor side issue of Getting Out Of There Alive.
Next up for Saprissa is the Houston Dynamo and they'd have to be idiots to go down there. The only reason at all for Houston to keep the fixture is just so they can say they've done it - I thought Paul Caligiuri was going to lose it when calling the game, as he's lived through very similar experiences in that stadium. On the bright side, Houston's trip to BMO Field will seem pretty quiet in comparison.
It's about time we laid down the law on this subject - I for one have read enough writers gawping stupidly about "atmosphere" in situations where fans cross the line from supporting to interfering. From Scotland to Turkey to Italy to Spain to Costa Rica, people gush about "tough places to play." It's crap. Anywhere would be tough to play if there are no cops, and the spectators are allowed to throw things at the players. Let's say the Fleet Center allowed the kind of thing we saw at Saprissa. Would the Celtics or the Bruins EVER lose a home game? Would the Bruins even give up a goal? Would the CELTICS even give up a basket?
We really need to rethink a mindset where Tampa fans are considered worse than Saprissa fans, because Tampa tossed an attention whore onto the field instead of coins and debris. Great, Saprissa, your middling, forgettable team has taken the place of a superior one, and will probably get to the final the same way. They might even win it. Because your fans realize that without acting like extras in C.H.U.D., their team would actually lose, and they can't handle it. Well, there is a place for fans like that in the world game - it's called "at home, listening for the results of their home team playing in neutral fields or behind closed doors."
So remember when the Superliga and the Interliga came out, and people like, well, me were trying to stick up for Central American teams that were getting frozen out? It makes a lot more sense now. Saprissa can get their asses beaten in the World Club Cup every year, while MLS and FMF teams make money fighting for Libertadores places. If American and Mexican teams must play on substandard fields with substandard security, let them do it to line their own pockets rather than Jack Warner's.