EDIT - BREAKING NEWS! Preki re-nominated for Hall of Fame! Feel free to factor in his performance over the weekend. (Yes, I know you're not supposed to.)
Now that I've got my head out of the oven, let's warm up with some trivia.
Depending on what happens Friday night, one bit of statistical weirdness will fall. There are eight teams in the league who have never moved nor folded from 1996 to today. Every MLS Cup has featured at least one of those teams. The Galaxy are the last team in the playoffs that answers that description.
Dema Kovalenko is YET AGAIN in serious danger of making the MLS Cup finals with his third different team; Brandon Prideaux can conceivably top that by being on his third different MLS Cup-winning team. (Alejandro Moreno and Ezra Hendrickson completed that feat last year.) Landon Donovan is in danger of getting his fourth ring; Eddie Robinson is trying for his fifth. Robinson, De Rosario and Jaime Moreno are the only guys with four right now...I think.
I mentioned this before, but six out of the last eight seasons, the San Jose-Houston franchise has either won the division, or won MLS Cup - but never both in the same year. Every year since moving to Houston, the Dynamo have won the division or MLS Cup - but never both in the same year. The San Jose-Houston franchise has only won titles in years where there was no double winner (double winners are more common in MLS than you would think). Houston did not win the division this year, and there will be no double winner.
Chicago has never gone three years in a row without winning SOMETHING (Open Cup, Shield, MLS Cup) - they're at the tail end of year three of a current trophyless streak.
The only RSL playoff trivia I have is that every time they've made the playoffs, they've made it to the semifinals, but, that's only been twice. Fifth place teams are still undefeated in the first round of the playoffs, though, in the three years this format has been used.
There, wasn't that dull? I feel much better.
I no longer feel silly for not being able to pick a winner in the LA-CUSA series. Usually, when I'm wrong, I'm wrong strong, but I had no idea who was going to win, and I thought it was because my mind was clouded by hate.
Turns out, they were only a somewhat questionable penalty kick apart, being more or less equally incompetent. If Chivas had made a decent pass in the final third of the field, they'd have won 3-1, easily. I was re-watching the highlights of game two, and was flabbergasted to note that Jesus Padilla actually got a shot off in the first half. How did I leave this guy off my Worst XI? The mystery isn't why Guadalajara farmed him off, so much as what they saw in him in the first place. See, the thing about Jackie Robinson? He could play. That helped a lot with the whole pioneer breaking barriers thing.
"I want to be the first American-born player on Chivas."
"Well, okay, we can accept the political realities of-"
"Oh, also, I suck."
"...yeah, we've got just the team for you."
Maybe I'm looking at this wrong. Chivas USA's forwards were made to look incompetent by remarkably effective defense. Gonzalez (who can be Rookie of the Year again now) and Berhalter made the adjustments necessary to neutralize Braun and Santos, and Dunivant and Franklin made sure the only passes available were going to be bad passes. I can see that as a theory.
And, of course, Kovalenko terrorizing Kljestan and Nagamura - but that's Dema being a Gotcha! player. I'll explain in a tedious footnote.*
Historians will debate whether Preki was fired or quit (I'm jumping the gun on this...OR AM I?), but someone has to pay a price, and he's a delightfully tempting target. The defensive adjustments he made actually worked, and I'm sure the Dynamo will be studying game two very carefully. Landon was very ineffective, apart from reading Zach Thornton like a coloring book on the penalty kick. But he can't run an offense, can't start the right forwards, can't put in the right forwards, can't find the right forwards, can't keep a roster consistent, can't keep his players healthy, and only provides emotional leadership in a negative way.** Lots of luck, Wizards, you'll need it.
Oh...so, were the controversial calls the right ones? Bill had his take on Osei being pushed off the ball by Nyarko...God, I have a hard time accepting that you can just plain push a guy out of the way.
And if the Rev defenders were expecing a foul, as opposed to lazily assuming Osei would shepherd the ball out for a goal kick...well, that also changes things, doesn't it? Yeah, they shouldn't have given Blanco more space than George Lucas, and yeah, they should have played to the whistle like...okay, fine, Chicago deserves the win.
Everyone and their dalmatian is picking the Fire, but Salt Lake has apparently made the transition from "better than you think" to "good." Javier Morales didn't have a banner season, but he's having a banner month so far. Movsisyan is playing well above the level set by guys playing out their MLS contracts before going to Europe. I'm glad Espindola is back in the league, and I don't think Olave is the criminal people say he is. I've even come around on Nick Rimando, who oh by the way has a ring already.
And the Fire are asking a lot from their Old Boy Network. So far, McBride, Blanco and CJ - Red, White and Brown? - have answered the bell, and it's been inspiring. They also look like they're going to run out of gas like a plane about to crash in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.
I thought MLS Cup was destined for the Crew - see what I said about being wrong strong? - and now I think that about the Dynamo. There's no phase of the game where Houston isn't better than Chivas USA - even at keeper there's no dropoff, and Onstad is much better at penalties. The Dynamo have been alarmingly poor against the Galaxy this year, but this is Kinnear's third crack at them.
Yes, I know. Arena makes teams play alarmingly poor against the Galaxy. It's not a coincidence, it's a plan, and it works at least half the time.
But the Galaxy have been, objectively, very bad in the playoffs so far. Maybe Houston comes in overconfident and gets waxed. Maybe Luis Angel Landin saw what Jesus Padilla accomplished, and is promising himself he can do worse. I just know what I saw, and if the Galaxy bring the same game they have the past two weeks, it's Houston in the final.
*Okay. Two guys are playing golf, and have a friendly wager. One guy happens to be a lot better, so he offers his friend a handicap. Second guy says "I don't need any strokes, but I will take two 'Gotchas!'"
"What's a Gotcha!?" asks the first guy.
"It's a surprise," says the second guy.
"Fine," says the first guy, thinking he'll win easily. So, midswing on the first hole, the second guy runs up to the first guy and grabs his testicles as hard as he can, and screams, "GOTCHA!"
After five minutes, the first guy manages to get to his feet, and says, "Okay, fine, that's what a 'Gotcha!' is. But you've only got one left."
Second guy says, "You ever tried to play eighteen holes of golf waiting for that second 'Gotcha!'?"
Dema's the classic Gotcha! player.
**Dema proved the truth of "The Time Warp." The pelvic thrust really does drive you insane.