Being There

First of all - and I think I speak for all of us bloggers here at BigSoccer - I'd like to thank you for not being Jamie Trecker's commenters. Jesus wept.

A second look at the highlights here is very instructive. I had very good looks at the first two goals, but very bad looks at the setups.

There is no such thing as an ugly goal, but the Moreno goal in the first half was probably the least beautiful of the season. I haven't heard anyone actually say that this goal cost New York the title, or that Columbus didn't deserve it. But after a series of looks at the Van den Bergh/Schelotto push at the sideline, and especially considering how confidently New York had been attacking up to that point, it's hard to make a convincing case for the Crew to take a 1-0 lead into the locker rooms.

Let me try. Van den Bergh was probably technically guilty of obstruction, certainly guilty of relying on the ref to make a call in a cup final, let alone an MLS Cup final. The refs all season - literally, every week - have been making podcasts about how they don't want to slow down the game by calling ticky-tack fouls. Today Brian Hall and Paul Tamberino stand triumphantly vindicated against my criticism...if that's the kind of goal you want, and if you're under the impression that most of those midfield ticky-tack fouls are going to favor the offense and lead to goals rather than prevent them.

And let's face it - 6'3" 180 lost a ball on a physical play to 5'8" 160. DVDB needed to be much more assertive on that play.

After that, it was just Alejandro Moreno embarrassing Jimenez and Cepero. Both of those guys completely misread the play. And it didn't unfold so blindingly quickly that there wasn't time to adjust and help out in the back. A Red Bull breakdown all around, and frankly New York was lucky to have a chance to come back from it.

Okay, who had two ex-Galaxy forwards scoring goals? I've disdained Wolyniec's abilities over the years, smugly comfortable in knowing that I shared that opinion with countless millions of people. But while the setup to New York's equalizer was 99 and 44/100ths Columbus defense sucking on magic sugar cubes, Wolyniec's actual shot was a classic example of determination, timing, and skill. Wolyniec was the Red Bulls' MVP for this playoff run, and good for him. Wolyniec, at 31, is on a pace to set the all-time Major League Soccer goal-scoring record...if he plays for another thirty years. But he's only 13 goals behind Carlos Ruiz for the postseason record, so he's closing in.

Wow, where did Marshall come from a minute later? At the time I just assumed it was New York doing a Revolution, and yeah, considering Chad scored on a corner kick goal from GBS ten days earlier...okay, New York should have put a man on him. But if Marshall had been covered, you know Schelotto would have found someone else.

And of all the fans to show celebrating, ABC picks Chivas USA visitors?

Columbus for a day
Columbus for a day
I know I am, I swear I am
Columbus for a day

Speaking of inappropriate, I'd like to apologize to Red Bulls fans for saying "I like Frankie Hejduk. I hope he gets a ring." It's not that I don't like him anymore (and it certainly isn't as if my opinion about him is going to cut any ice one way or the other), but I had no idea he was going to celebrate a goal in front of your section. In the words of Lao Tze, dick move.

But it wasn't just Schelotto who read that play perfectly - easy to picture a scenario where that play ends up with GBS putting the ball into space, and having the play completed by nobody, because the run wasn't made. Even Moreno's crummy pass to start the sequence should have been cleared out. The Red Bull fantasy version of that play ends up with a break down the left side that had been abandoned by Hejduk.

Could it have gone differently? Wolyniec played too well to justify putting Macoumba in there earlier, but I wish JCO had made room for all three somehow. Mostly, New York's defense wasn't good enough to stop everyone. Robbie Rogers and Eddie Gaven weren't what you'd call dominant - let's face it, Gaven's presence on the exposed list for Seattle surpises me kinda little - but the Bulls simply didn't have the men to stop everyone.

What does New York do now? Rub Osorio's nose in Pietravallo and Cichero and say, "No! Bad coach! Bad signing! No!" And while he's going into his fourth year as a pro, I still think that Kevin Goldthwaite has a chance to be among the very, very worst players ever to play the game.

You can hope this game didn't break Jimenez' confidence - he's got upside if he can put Sunday behind him. There must be room for Sassano to keep a position once Stammler returns. And you want to keep building for the future, but there are clocks on Angel and Van Den Bergh. If they're at this level two years from now, then count yourselves blessed. Three years, I'm not seeing.

But still - Borman, Sassano, Stammler, Sinisa, Richards, Kandji, Cepero. With Angel and Van Den Bergh (they won't immediately suck next year), that's quite a few cookies in the cupboard. I think their days of finishing fifth are over for a while.

The Crew, of course, naturally don't get 24 hours to celebrate before having to worry about losing their coach and their MVP and at least one guy to Chief Seattle. Even if the worst happens, well, Mike Lapper has spent years at the feet of the master, he'll do fine. (The last guy who replaced Sigi in MLS won a double the next year, after all.) The Crew aren't exactly bereft on the bench - they wouldn't have gotten nearly this far if they were - and if Adam Moffat comes back healthier and untaken in the expansion draft, they might even improve.

Even if Schelotto leaves, the Crew can...miss the playoffs entirely. Sorry, don't see them surviving that. I mean, you need to keep your captain, right?


(You actually probably do need to think about grooming a replacement for your captain, you know.)

Otherwise, there's no reason they won't be back to defend their titles.

Oh, there's talk Marshall will leave? Um. Yeah, eat hearty, for tonight you dine in hell, I think is how Goethe put it.

Enjoy the moment! Congratulations, Columbus, 2008 double winners!