Hickory, Dickory, Dock

Pity poor Don Garber.

No, not because he has to put up with reporters all the time; he handles himself pretty well amongst the unwashed, freeloading, neck-plastic wearing keyboard bangers of the world:

[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjYrNvVzQeo"]YouTube- Don Garber comments nd gets into shouting match with reporter[/ame]

But so far, the Conference Championship weekend, one of the biggest TV ratings grabs of the MLS season, has been, if not a disaster then the next best thing to it.

(Yes, I'm taking pity on those of you who didn't sit up half the damned night waiting for Southern California to figure out how to generate electricity and ended up hitting the DVR. Fair warning.)

LA-Houston was the kind of scheduling that MLS needs: a high stakes ESPN match featuring name players - including the long awaited "David Beckham in an MLS game that matters" storyline - and it ends up kicking off around 11:30 Eastern on a Friday night, waiting in the lobby until West Virginia and Cincinnati get done sullying the airwaves with the Stumpjumper Bowl.

The very late kickoff time guaranteed that the casual "let's check out the game" crowd east of the Missisippi were gone before JP Dellacamera made his first inane comment.

That was bad enough, for sure. But at least we were going to get the west coast, right? 8:30 kick, done before the local news, surely there are some numbers to be had even if all you're getting from the eastern seaboard is the same hopeless geeks who'd be watching if it was mid-May and the game featured KC and Colorado.

Then, less than a half hour into what was looking like a pretty entertaining match, the house lights go down as if the next thing you're going to hear is "ladies and gentlemen, MARIAH CAREY!!!"

But alas, it was the power gremlins, not a key grip, who plunged the place into darkness.

All the players milled around a while, Terry Vaughn looked like he was going to throw up, Bruce Arena had a sour expression on his face and up in a sky box The Don was seen pulling out a Glock and jamming it into his mouth as ESPN went into commercials and the sound of TV remote control buttons became almost palpable.

When the game finally started up again, there wasn't much question the players were struggling to regain some tempo and flow, but surely a big part of that was the fact that there were two very good defenses out there.

Halftime saw goose eggs on the scoreboard but surely the second half promised better, and initially at least it seemed that everyone had gotten back in the mood to play a little.

Until the lights went out again.

20 minutes later, when the game resumed again to a national TV audience which at that point - almost 2 AM Eastern - could probably have fit into Garbers' rec room, any hope of the artistic tour de force the lague had hoped for had dissolved into a hackfest.

And as the thing dragged on through the night and neither team was able to put the ball into a net, you suddenly were struck with the seeming certainty that the MLS Western Conference Champion would be crowned after a 4 AM PK shootout, the pictures flickering off sound asleep fans from coast to coast.

Mercifully, a goal sometime after the bars had closed, followed by a PK caused more by exaustion than malice, gave us a winner, at least on the field.

I'm just hoping they can get The Don onto a plane to Chicago before he sees the Neilson "first look" score for the game.