Holy Cow

Has there ever been a final weekend of league games in the history of the universe where every single match actually meant something?

I bet Don Garber lit himself a big old Red Auerbach style victory cigar last night. All the other commissioners over at the Commissioner's Club are getting set to throw him a roast. Mrs. Garber is giving him come hither looks even as we speak.

Major League Baseball ought to hang it's head in shame. The NBA ought to go out back and blow it's brains out in despair. The NHL? Well, nobody cares until March anyway.

Somehow, lowly MLS (or, as a certain Canadian blogger would have it "that frightened little league" whose fans are all "pedants") has managed, in all their ignorance and folly, to do something that no professional league has ever even dared dream of: make all the games relevant.

And no, I don't mean just an opportunity to wonder what in the world died on Kei Kamara's head:

Before the MLS weekend was even two minutes old, Mac Kandji had those NYRB fans who own small boats and thus could actually get to the stadium on their feet:


If you watched this match you were likely as puzzled as everyone else at the fact that, from the opening whistle, Toronto looked for all the world like they just didn't give a damn. Everybody mails one in now and then, that's just the way it is. But when it's "the biggest match in team history" you expect a little effort now and then from someone.

About the only person who looked at all interested in winning the game was Amado Guevara, but between TFC's lead-footed defense and that poor schmoe in the goal who shall remain nameless (as is the norm with assault victims), Toronto did one of the best imitations of day old roadkill we've seen all season.

Just as dampening as the rain, however, was Bouna Condouls' work in the goal, which easily ranks among the best we've seen this season:


After the game, MLS&E CEO Tom Anselmi announced that Mo Johnston, the man responsible for putting this team together, will be retained next season, leading to speculation that Trader Mo has pictures of Anselmi having relations with farm animals or something.

So the Bulls go on to Harrison, TFC goes home to type up poor, innocent Chris Cummins' pink slip (and to start interviewing for their fourth coach in four years) and the action moved on to....

Kansas City, where in all probablity we saw another MLS coaching career hit the retaining wall.as Tommy Soehn, demonstrating either early dementia or a macabre sense of humor, started Danny "Kiss My Ass" Szetela and Christian "Ain't I Pretty" Gomez over Ben "Kick Your Ass" Olsen and Jaime "I Will Make You Look Ugly" Moreno.

Now the latter two are of course a bit dinged up and long in the tooth, but if my ass was on the line like Soehns' was I'd rather have Olsen on crutches and Moreno in a wheelchair than Gomez and Szetela. Like the saying goes, there's no tomorrow.

Sadly, for Soehn, that'll probably be the result as Peter Vermes - a guy whose future employment problems consist of deciding which job he'll take - sent out a team missing some key parts but looking like it was them, not DCU, fighting for that playoff spot.


It's hard to say what's more shocking: the haircut or the fact that Kamara shut his mouth and stopped hacking people long enough to hit the net.

Still, it looked good for DC, up 2-1 as the game moved into the 90th minute, until another guy likely to be seeing The District in his rearview mirror shortly, the prosaically named Fred, did what he had to do on the goal line, but didn't get away with it:


He'll get some grief for it, but he shouldn't. If he doesn't knock the ball down it's a goal anyway.

(Not to pick on Fred particularly, but I've noticed a trend lately of players who are supposed to be using their bodies to block the goal - in a free kick "wall" for instance - flinching when the ball comes towards them.

Excuse me, Princess, but your purpose in that spot is not decorative. If you're not willing to let the ball hit you, then go find someone with manparts to take your place.)

Final score: DC 2, KC 2, Tom Soehn's chances of keeping his job 0. The last time proud old DC missed the playoffs two seasons in a row, Thomas Rongen was shown the door. Failure is not an option at RFK.

Meanwhile, out in Utah, The Stormin Mormons were kicking Colorado's playoff hopes to the curb (despite the fact that the Raps hadn't won for a month they came in with a decent shot at a slot) for the second straight year as the chronically under appreciated Andy Williams and rising star Robbie Findlay combined for the dagger:


That's just one damn nice goal in any man's league.

Last season, a team from the East (NYRB) was given the fourth seed in the West, proceeded to beat defending champion Houston in the first round and then played RSL for the conference championship.

This year, RSL has been given the fourth seed in the East and will play defending champion Columbus in the first round.

So perhaps Coach Kreis' postgame comments about this team being "good enough" to win MLS Cup weren't entirely hyperbole: he knows whereof he speaks.

The Sounders were another team that couldn't decide if they really wanted a playoff spot or not, having failed to net a goal at Qwest since mid July, although they began the game with a postseason reservation in their pockets anyway and were basically playing musical chairs with the rest of the division.

Conversely, their opponent, Dallas FC, seemingly had done nothing BUT score for the last few weeks, mostly via the feet of newly crowned MLS Golden Boot Winner Jeff Cunningham, and were still clinging to playoff dreams.

And when Atiba Harris basically waltzed through the Sounders defense and sailed one past Old Man River, it began to look like maybe Seattle was looking a little too far ahead:


It wasn't until the 61st minute that Sigis' Side equalized on a Nate Jaqua goal, and then slammed the door on DFCs' spectacular season-ending rush with this Brad Evans redirect:


...which looked, however briefly, as if it might just give Seattle the Western Division title, a prospect which failed to materialize when......

Landon Donovan hit a highly speculative ball goalward that hit the net after an unfortunate carom:


This was ruled an Own Goal, and I guess that technically it is, but poor Bobby Burling doesn't deserve it. Call it fate, call it funny, but that's the luck of the bounce, nothing more.

Donovan hit again on 77 minutes to put an end to any doubts and San Jose went quietly into that good night.

On a side note, does anybody remember something or other about a book?

This guy who just got done kicking a ball into the stands doesn't either.

When Arena pulled Beckham four minutes from time, the HDC faithful gave him a standing ovation. Classy stuff, gentlemen. Classy stuff.

It's hard to drum up a lot of enthusiasm over a game whose sole purpose (aside from, of course, keeping the league from killing you with fines for not showing up) is playoff position, and when Abe Thompson converted this nice ball in around 50 minutes, it made the score Houston 3-0 Chivas it seemed like a good time to go rake some leaves:


But a Michael Lahoud goal at the 59th minute mark and a Lilingston PK a couple minutes from time made the scoreline look pretty respectable.

For their part, Houston looks tanned and ready, which is a good thing since Dominick Kinnear had a few choice words for the league office after learning that his Dynamo will face Seattle at Qwest on Thursday, after a CONCACAF match last Wednesday and then being one of the Sunday games as well, making it three matches in eight days.

Houston will stay in Carson today (Monday) rather than fly home in order to get as much rest as possible before traveling to Seattle on Tuesday.

In truth, you'd think that if the league really wants MLS teams to take CONCACAF games seriously they could make some allowances.

And of course, like the Lions playing on Thanksgiving, the Crew played the traditional last game of the season, kicking off against a New England side whose mission, after all these weeks of Newtonian formula gazing, boiled down to winning or drawing to make the playoffs.

At last, something simple.

The Crew, for their part, was playing for not much, except that Coach Warzycha needs to figure out how to score some goals before they share Houston's fate from a year ago when the defending MLS champions went one series and done.

Columbus has scored exactly one goal since September, and that was a fluky set piece from the left back that Matt Reis lost in a crowd.

Unfortunately for them, they kept the record intact, making it five straight MLS matches where Mssrs. Schelotto, Moreno, Lenhart, Rogers, Ekpo and Gaven have failed to find the net. It's a damn good thing they're not paid for production or they'd be thumbing rides to the stadium.

So in the overall scheme of things, it didn't really matter that the Revs scored on a short distance DFK after a ludicrous handling call:


Which goal put New England in, Colorado out and Columbus looking for a goal to call their own.

Overall, great stuff, Don. Enjoy the roast; I understand that David Stern can really deliver a zinger.

Sorry Toronto thinks you're a moron. The rest of us thought this was a great weekend.

More please.