Relegation, Shmelagation

A funny thing happened to the "We need relegation so that late season games involving teams who are out of the playoffs won't be so meaningless and dull" theory:

It got blown all to hell.

Already-eliminated New York and might-as-well-be-eliminated San Jose*, both of them dead last in their respective divisons would, under a single table/relegation format, currently be working out their transfers to USL1 even as we speak.

Instead, on Friday night they played two fighting-for-their-playoff-lives teams desperate for points, New England and Colorado respectively, and the stunning draws in both games were well worth the price of a ticket.

I'm not suggesting that either of these games were "Wrap up the film and ship it to Oneonta" thrillers or once in a lifetime displays of football virtuosity. This is MLS after all.

But Colorados' 95th minute PK conversion (Joe Cannon guessed right but still couldn't stop Conor Casey's howitzer shot) left Frank Yallop looking as gutted and bereft as if he'd just lost the FA Cup final and Colorado, having been desperate for the three points, were suddenly jubilant over one.

For their part the normally sedate and laid back San Jose fans reportedly pelted the field - and the officials - with trash and verbal abuse. Obviously not a good thing but just as obviously not the actions of fans who don't give a crap who wins.

Meanwhile, in New York, the Red Bulls played the team's penultimate match in Giants Stadium and did their somewhat tattered but nevertheless defiant (they have a hard core of fans that has earned one hell of a lot more respect than they get; talk about a group that "deserves better") legacy proud. A second half John Wolyniec goal enabled by a classy release from Mac Kandji, who was an animal all game long, sent the Revs home with only one of the three desperately needed points they must have figured were in the bag against the cellar-dwelling Bulls:

What's more, were it not for an inexplicable non-call on what looked like one of the more obvious penalty box takedowns we've seen in recent weeks, the Bulls would have sent New England home empty handed.

Neither of these games was what everyone asures us these games are supposed to be like, with out of the playoffs teams dragging themselves around the pitch to no particular purpose.

Moreover, all of that set the stage for four Saturday matches with nary a late season dragass, mail-it-in performance showing among them.

In fact, these were some of the tightest, hardest fought games we've seen this season. Not that the "we need to be just like England or we're nothing but crap" crowd will notice, but the rest of us got to see some great playoffs-induced drama:

The lid-lifter (I'm sorry, I just love that term) was Chivas and Seattle going at each other like PETA going after Michael Vick.

The Sounders pounded away at the Goats for 90 minutes, launching 12 shots, 10 corners and more sharp elbows than you could count as the previously given up for deceased Zach Thornton, who wasn't even supposed to be out there due to a serious quadriceps injury, turned in a killer - maybe even a Player of the Week - performance:

Seattle, trying to pass LA for the second seed in the West and Chivas, clawing and scratching for the points they need to stay playoff-relevant, both ended up smooching Sis and taking a single point out of a terrific match.

That was followed by a pair of 3-2 wins, the first from a pretty pissed off Houston side and the second by a Wizards team that seems to have decided either that they don't want to roll over and play dead after all or that they're too frightened of what Peter Vermes might do to them if they did.

The Dynamo, apparently still steamed after what they felt was an unfair loss to the Crew last Sunday, came out mean and nasty and were up 2-0 after just five minutes.

Then, incredibly, Real Salt Lake, playing more than half the game a man down, clawed back into the match, evening it at 2 all with a lovely Yura Mozsisyan goal on 60 minutes only to lose on this stunning 81st minute Brad Davis strike:

Meanwhile, in CommunityAmerica, Dallas and KC, two teams who don't seem to know when they're done - the sort that everyone assures us won't play very hard unless they're threatened with relegation - went toe-to-toe in a see-saw thriller that saw KC go one up, Dallas tie, Dallas go one up, KC tie and, on 80 minutes, this Jimmy Conrad winner:

This is just great stuff.

The nightcap (hey, if I'm using stale cliches I might as well go all the way) featured the Galaxy and Toronto FC who are, according to my best Canadian blogger-pal: "two of the better teams in the league".

Well, he got it half right.

This was the coming out party for Julian de Guzman, Savior of Toronto, who introduced his sublime, skillful, otherworldly skills to MLS by clumsily hacking down Eddie Lewis:

And for fans of irony, note the clock; deGuzman's studs-up assault occurred in - wait for it:

The 24th minute.

I tell you, this stuff just writes itself.

The game winner came courtesy of some journeyman Brit:

Who then helped Edson Buddle seal the deal:

LA 2-0.

And of course todays' match, featuring two teams in the Fire and the Crew who, frankly, just don't like each other much as the team that sent Chicago home last season goes against a team who'd dearly love to return the favor.

Hope you get Telefutura.