EDIT - Someone In The Know wrote to tell me that Chance Myers was fighting mono all season, so, uh, sorry, Chance. (Although are we sure he wasn't just really bored?) (Wayne's World reference.)
Craziest damn thing happened this weekend - the Supporters Shield winner got to the semifinal round. A team that won its conference is now only a game away from MLS Cup. Shieldbearers haven't even visited MLS Cup since 2003, and haven't won the thing since 2002.
The question isn't why the Wizards weren't able to knock off the Crew - the question is, why weren't the Wizards a better team than the Crew. Last year at this time, the Wizards had a better record, and way more playoff success (what with appearing at all, let alone winning a game). Sigi Schmid was in serious trouble, Curt Onalfo was a hot young property - not on the level of Preki or Tom Soehn, but his stock was way up there. And then Kansas City added one of the league's few Argentines with a better reputation than Schelotto.
Sure, Kansas City would have won the West this year, but unfortunately for Kansas City Salt Lake and CUSA joined the league. They're going to have to find a way to beat the teams on their schedule. It's a tragedy, I know.
Onalfo and Vermes have a lot of pieces in the puzzle box, and maybe given a full season they find a way to make it work consistently. I'm expecting Onalfo to get a little bit of heat for game two. I had never heard of Michael Kraus before he replaced Abe Thompson, and seeing him in the game before Josh Wolff smacked of the white flag. Except, Wolff was doubtful this week anyway (fibular stress reaction, says MLSnet)...and it wasn't precisely as if Josh set MLS on its ear since coming back. The last minute roster additions - Wolff, Thompson, Herculez - achieved its immediate goal of making the playoffs, but once they ran into an actual cohesive unit, it was all over. Interesting challenge for next season.
Oh, and you might want to see if your #1 overall pick is good to go next year. Nick Garcia wasn't going to make the difference this year, but he probably would have been able to dress for the playoffs, just saying.
Then there's Claudio Lopez. I realize you're not supposed to use stats in soccer as a crutch like this, but. Six goals, seven assists, twenty-five starts. David Beckham: five goals, ten assists, twenty-five starts. When your designated player is mediocre (or hurt, or both - ask your friends in Washington about Marcelo Gallardo), that makes it tough to beat teams whose big money players are putting up big money numbers. The Crew defense, bascially, had nothing to worry about. When ARE the Wizards finally going to replace Preki, anyway?
Curt Onalfo is counseling...wait for it...patience.
It's tempting to break out the 72-point wartime type for "Onalfo Doesn't Think He Should Be Fired!" or "Wizards Gain Two Whole Points In The Standings In A Year Where DC United, New England, Toronto and The Entire Western Conference Died And Went To Hell! WHEE!"
Sadly for comedy purposes, Onalfo is correct. The Wizards are the only team eliminated from the playoffs so far that isn't under a lot of pressure to succeed next year at the latest. As long as they're in the baseball time-share, they can take their time and prepare an actual contender in time for their move to the Magic Castle.
The problem is, well...you can't waste draft picks on guys who turn into aw, heck, maybe Myers tears it up next year or something, it's way too early to write him off. This is the team that drafted Matt Taylor #4 overall not too long ago. When youth movements fail, they make a big, big crater. I'm optimistic about the Wizards, but they need to learn from their mistakes.
(I don't know if I have readers in front offices of soccer teams in Carson, California, but if I do, trust me, they read the last four words of that last paragraph and went "Whuh?")
Oh, yeah, the baseball stadium. I usually hate it when coaches complain about the schedule, but the Kansas City Tea Men sent the Wizards on the road until what was it, Labor Day? Teams having to climb out of a huge freaking hole just to make the playoffs rarely do well once they roll around.