The notorious pro-Canadian bias of Major League Soccer was on display again this past Sunday. There should be an investigation. Unless you think it's a coincidence that ever since Toronto FC joined the league, it's been lucky break after lucky break for them.
Let us pause to salute the fallen, even the ones who fell hilariously.
FC DALLAS gives us an object lesson on the relative importance of the three major US trophies. The Hoopy Froods (this is a Douglas Adams reference that is, what, thirty-five years old? I'm to the point now where I need to annotate these things) of course won the Shield and the Open Cup, a feat that has a precedent. The Chicago Fire website, perhaps somewhat fancifully, says their 2003 team will be forever remembered for doing it first. But FC Dallas, like the Fire before them, now have a dish full of delicious whipped cream and tasty hot fudge. It tastes great, but there's something important missing. Usually I'm deaf to excuses like injury - although I plan to use it when I get to the section on my favorite team - but Dallas has a point, Mauro Diaz wasn't just another player. You have to think the future is still pretty damn bright here...unless some meanies decide to hire away Oscar Pareja.
The NEW YORK RED BULLS made 2016 a twofer in the Finishing First is a Curse, uh, curse. The last time the non-Shield conference winner went to MLS Cup was in 2009, and the last time the non-Shield conference winner won MLS Cup was in 2003. At least an actual Supporters Shield winner has won MLS Cup two times since 2003 (Crew in '08, Galaxy in '11). Uneasy lies the tiara of the heir apparent, or something. I absolutely love the way the Red Bulls have focused on improving the product to answer the challenge of NYCFC, but I think in the next season or two the Wright-Phillips/McCarty/Kljestan window will have closed.
NYCFC finished third in a lousy conference and were stomped in the first round. What do they want, a cookie?
I'll try not to spend overmuch time on the LOS ANGELES GALAXY. Although I'm a fan of theirs, I realize countless trillions alive and yet to be born are not. I can't bear to go back and look at all the "Galaxy could be best team ever!" articles from the beginning of the year when they had signed De Jong, Cole, and Van Damme. Would LA still be in the playoffs if Zardes was healthy? Apparently not, since his backup was called up to the US national team this week. In 2017, LA will have at least two DP spots to play with - one should go to Van Damme. Whether the Galaxy contend next year depend on whether or not they can resist giving the other one to Wayne Rooney. Fingers crossed.
We have a little break in MLS so we can all enjoy US vs. Mexico, which will as usual be a festival of joy and good sportsmanship. But that doesn't mean we can't look ahead to the conference finals.
AMERICAN DIVISION: It's tempting to see how Colorado needed 210 minutes and a coin flip to see off the crapiocre Galaxy, with the home field, and jump to some unflattering conclusions. But Seattle needed a cheap winner against the Sportings to win a home game this playoffs already, and they took FC Dallas to the salad bar and made them have the pasta salad.
I have to work on my metaphors. Anyway, stop me if I've told you this, but the Colorado Rapids come in two flavors - boring and terrible, and boring but nigh impossible to beat. I've got a real 2010 vibe about the Rapids this time around. It is going to be close and ugly. I think.
CANADIAN DIVISION: It would be easy to sit here and blandly pick Toronto just because they have a better record, a better roster, and at least nominal home field advantage. So that's exactly what I'm going to do.