I hate it when I step on Bill Archer. I dawdle a little longer with my post, and yet mine ends up on top. Totally unfair. Go read Bill's post, then come back. I love the idea that MLS matches are fixed. But even more than that, I love the idea that sinister forces try to fix MLS matches, but don't succeed. So the premise is, the ref or the commissioner will order one team to be favored, and give one hugely questionable call in (let's say) the Galaxy's favor – but ONLY ONE questionable call. After that, it's all fair play and good sportsmanship. "I realize I promised Don Garber and the Singapore betting syndicate that the Galaxy would win by two goals," Baldomdero Toledo says to himself, "but by golly, Salt Lake is showing such heart, I just can't take it away from them. I'm sure they'll understand."
So two of the less beloved fanbases in the league are demanding answers this morning. I can sort of kind of help with one of them. First, though, here's your Least Valuable Player ballot for 2013:
Carlos Bocanegra, Chivas USA Carlo Cudicini, Los Angeles Clint Dempsey, Seattle Dwayne DeRosario, Free Agent Robbie Rogers, Los Angeles
There's a clear lesson here – don't sign former Spurs.
I actually don't know why Seattle turned into Rave Green TFC. I also would be very hesitant to fire Sigi Schmid, because there is absolutely no guarantee that his replacement will be an improvement. It wasn't for the last two teams that had to replace him, after all.
That said, the gap between expectations and results yawned into a truly mighty chasm, and the fans are right in demanding some sort of change. And it's very, very hard to be satisfied with "Let them have a full season together." All of us have suffered through our favorite teams laying donkey eggs against hated rivals, and it's a truly miserable, helpless feeling.
I think you tweak Seattle, not tear them down. Seattle may not agree.
As for the Galaxy – well, they started three rookies, and paid the price. As a rule, I don't criticize rookies, and I'm not going to here. The Galaxy will be better for it in the long term. Yeah, Zardes, Opare and Rogers did not have particularly good nights, but…
Oh, Robbie Rogers isn't a rookie? Oops.
Rogers is taking a serious amount of incoming from bitter Galaxy fans. He wasn't at the level LA needed to defend their title, and that's on Rogers and Bruce Arena both. That's also something that I THINK a full preseason helps to cure. And if Rogers loses his job permanently to Sean Franklin or Hector Jimenez or yet another acquisition, them's the breaks.
However, Arena kept Rogers on the field. Rogers was better than Jan – Wilhemsson? That Swedish stiff from a couple of years ago, and no, it is NOT worth my time to look up his name – but Arena asked too much of Zardes and Rogers, and didn't do enough to get Donovan and Keane more involved. Which is also on Donovan and Keane.
Which, in turn, is a very positive reflection on Real Salt Lake. The primary reason Keane, Donovan, Zardes, and Rogers were ineffective is because they ran into a better team with a better strategy.
How much better? Salt Lake was a man down for the last overtime period – and not because of disciplinary problems. The Galaxy still couldn't get the goal they needed. If they had, and managed to squeak through on penalties, that would have been the true injustice of the night, not the called-back offside/foul in the box/whatever goal that wasn't.
One way to test this theory is to put Salt Lake up against a team with a better record – oh, look, semifinals.
Oh, before I forget – Salt Lake fans have been put through the wringer this past year, first for the US-Honduras game, and then last night by Taylor Twellman. Apparently they are too quiet for some. I, on the other hand, have a hunch that both those games were intensely-fought, anxiety-fraught games, and that the fans were invested in the result. Maybe if they had concentrated more on singing and waving flags, rather than the games they paid to see and cared deeply about the results of, that would have been more aesthetically pleasant to listen to from our couches. But I don't have to stretch too far back to remember a game where I stopped cheering out of sheer nervous tension. Guess I'm not a real fan.
In fairness, Taylor Twellman more than made up for that by shouting "Who cares?" when told SportsCenter was going to be on another channel.
Do I have the wrong number on Kansas City-Houston? Now everyone and their goldfish are yammering about coaching experience and Houston having Sporting's number and all the stuff I felt stupid for spitting out when Houston was playing New York. Yeah, Kinnear's the best coach standing right now, but there are some differences between New York and Kansas City. I think, despite the regular season records, that Sporting is deeper and more talented than New York. I think Houston is much weaker than they have been in recent seasons. I think Kansas City has Something to Prove and will be Hungry and oh my God, I'm fighting clichés with clichés.
Like I've said before, I don't understand why Kansas City isn't a 60-point Shield winner right now. I think they had trouble with New England because the Revolution are a team on the upswing with a very, very tough defense. And, absent a botched offside in a road game that in an ideal system they wouldn't have had to play to begin with, the Sportings advance in reasonably comfortable regulation, rather than gut-wrenching extra time.
I don't think Kansas City is as good as Salt Lake, although again, regular season results argue otherwise. But if they lose to Houston again, they might have to answer some very pointed questions.
Maybe Sigi and Peter Vermes switch jobs? It's that, or one of them hires Wynalda.