#DecisionDay followed by #IForgetWhatHashtagMLSUsedForTheFirstRoundofThePlayoffs followed by #FourOnTheFloorShouldHaveBeenTheHashtagForSundayButNoOneListensToMe was wonderful marketing, and, up until Sunday, exciting soccer. Asking four teams to play three season-deciding games in a week was too much to ask, though. It also didn't help that the playoffs are now, until MLS Cup, back to the home-and-home silliness.
I swear, MLS teams could come out with huge advertisements on their jerseys - like, literally ten times the size of the club logo - and fans wouldn't complain, because that's how it's done in Europe. But I digress.
No, wait a minute, I don't. If I have to watch this every year, then I'll say it every year. Home-and-home serves a purpose in European club competition, because the Champions League and Europa leagues are trying to preserve equality and neutrality. The FA Cup has a random draw, and neutral sites, because theoretically, all of those teams are on an equal footing. Liga MX has a two-legged playoff and a split season, because Liga MX does things horribly.
The MLS playoffs, on one or more other hands, are seeded. MLS specifically wants to reward teams that finished higher in the standings.
And on #DecisionDay and #MidweekMadness, that played out perfectly - as well as it has in league history. The difference between second and third (or, if you're the Galaxy, second and fifth) meant literally the whole season. Thanks to regular season standings, the Galaxy went from MLS Cup contenders to Dante from "Clerks" whining "I wasn't even supposed to be here today!" Bruce Arena reduced to quaking fury wasn't even the highlight of the round, what with Kansas City ACTUALLY LOSING A PENALTY KICK CONTEST.
It was probably unfair to ask Sunday's quadrupleheader to live up to the previous matchdays - even though the quadrupleheader was also a great marketing idea. Even against the World Series and the NFL, the playoff games had a March Madness feel.
But once again, the format took the air out of the ball. The first leg of the playoffs ends up being an exercise in damage control. And so we have a second leg with the following scenarios: New York just has to avoid a towering choke, Portland and Vancouver effectively might as well have not played last week, and Dallas and Columbus are in a hole for no reason.
Quality of play, scheduling, viewership, and drama all would have been better served with single game, home-and-done playoffs. But, Seattle has to have their home game, I suppose.
You know who would make a ton of money off of a "home and home" series? The NFL. And yet, they don't. (Although please nobody give Goodell any ideas.)
This year has come closer to making the regular season more important and relevant to the playoffs than any before - MLS is so close. Just two games to slice from the schedule, and they're there.
I suppose I should give predictions, but I'm not ashamed to say I have no idea. My Galaxy-TFC preseason pick lies in smoldering ruins. Out of the remaining teams, three have terrible histories of flopping this time of year (New York, Dallas, Seattle), three are completely schizoid Jekyll-and-Hyde outfits (Crew, DC, Portland), and two are Canadian. I *think* Dallas is the best team in MLS this year, but I'm not paid to think, am I?
My longtime readers - assuming any are left; I do churn through them - will recall that I used to hand out CONCACAF Player of the Year awards, before CONCACAF finally decided to do it themselves. And, may I say, I did such a better job than they've done, it frankly makes me weep.
So I'm back in the awards business - the Least Valuable Player award.
Previous, retroactively-awarded winners (although a lot of these were fiercely contested back in the day):
1996: Alexi Lalas, New England
1997: Eric Wynalda, San Jose
1998: Roy Wegerle, Tampa Bay
1999: Tab Ramos, Metrostars
2000: Lothar Matthaeus, Metrostars
2001: Luis Hernandez, Los Angeles
2002: John Harkes, Columbus
2003: Hong Myung-Bo, Los Angeles
2004: Freddy Adu, DC United
2005: Martin Zuniga, Chivas USA
2006: Eddie Johnson, Kansas City
2007: Denilson, Dallas
2008: David Beckham, Los Angeles
2009: Julian de Guzman, Toronto
2010: Nery Castillo, Chicago
2011: Frank Rost, New York
2012: Rafa Marquez, New York
2013: Sherjill MacDonald, Chicago
2014: Jermain Defoe, Toronto
The criteria here is as ambiguous as the Most Valuable Player. It's not about being the worst player in the league. Otherwise, you wouldn't even see enough playing time to form a judgment. This is more about hurting your team as much as possible, providing as little return for the investment as possible, and preferably crippling your team financially as well as in the standings. Many glorious names have competed for this award, but we will give it the provisional name of Amway Lothar Matthaeus Least Valuable Player award. Nominations are now open.
(EDIT - I thought I'd saved before hitting publish. Proofreading is for schmucks, anyway.)