The 2010 MLS Cup Final will be remembered for a hard-fought game, disappearing fans and some frigid weather conditions, but the weekend itself should be remembered for being entertaining and Toronto should be remembered for throwing one heck of a weekend for Major League Soccer.
For those of you who weren't able to make the trip, here is a rundown of some of the highlights for me, as well as some random thoughts from the weekend in Toronto:
One enduring moment I was lucky enough to see came well after MLS Cup Final, at one of the post-cup parties. It was of Dallas defender Ugo Ihemelu and Rapids striker Omar Cummings sharing a long congratulatory hug as Ihemelu welcomed Cummings to the champions club. The two former teammates had battled admirably on Sunday night, and the respect was there to see as Ihemelu congratulated his good friend.
One player who couldn't have been too happy is Heath Pearce, who was adamant in the days leading up to the final that he was healthy enough to play. When Dallas officials chose not to select him to be in uniform for the match, Pearce responded with a Twitter message that revealed some clear frustration, a message he deleted soon after posting.
In retrospect, Dallas may have wound up making a major mistake leaving Pearce off the roster and not seriously considering him for the final. Without him, Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman was forced to use rookie Zach Loyd at right back and it was Loyd who was beaten by Jamie Smith on Colorado's first goal of the night. If Pearce, who was arguably the best fullback in MLS this season, was healthy enough to play on Sunday then Hyndman and the Dallas training staff deserve to face heat over a terrible decision.
Does this mean Heath Pearce's days are numbered in Dallas? You have to wonder whether Hyndman will consider offers for Pearce considering the depth the team has at fullback. There would be a line a dozen teams long ready to scoop up the services of a player who can play right back and left back as well or better than anybody in MLS.
A player who I kept seeing all weekend was none other than Jaime Moreno, who was the subject of a rather interesting story I heard. The D.C. United legend is wrapping up his career with D.C. and MLS planned on honoring him at halftime of the MLS Cup Final. At least until Moreno made it clear that he didn't plan on retiring, which apparently surprised some league officials and promptly led to him being removed from a halftime ceremony honoring retiring MLS standouts.
What's next for Moreno? It's clear he still wants to play and he joins Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Juan Pablo Angel on the list of skilled but aging players being shown the door by the clubs they served so well.
Jimmy Conrad was also in town, though it is unclear where he will go next. Kansas City was ready to deal Conrad for the right offer a year ago, but held on to him in 2010 when the right price never came. This time around, the Wizards have left the veteran centerback exposed in the expansion draft and even if he isn't selected there's no guarantee the sides will reach an agreement on a new contract.
Portland isn't in the league yet but they were well-represented in Toronto. Some Timber fans made the trip East and I also had the chance to meet Timbers owner Merritt Paulson and chat briefly with head coach John Spencer. Portland has the feel of a club ready to make a big splash in year one.
One topic of conversation making the rounds was Steve Zakuani's impending training stint with Everton. There is the belief that Zakuani just might be able to parlay that into a Landon Donovan-like loan to the Toffees, who could certainly use his speed on the flank. This possibility could be increased if Donovan passes on a second loan to Everton this winter.
One former MLS coach who made a cameo in Toronto was Denis Hamlett. The former Chicago Fire head coach is said to be in the mix for some of the MLS head coaching openings, and has apparently already interviewed for one.
Someone else I saw seemingly every day in Toronto was former U.S. national team standout defender Eddie Pope. He doesn't looked like he has aged a day, which has me wondering if he's one of the aliens from the NBC show The Event. For those who don't know, Pope works with the MLS Player's Union, and could probably still play for some MLS teams if he hadn't retired already.
The MLS Draft was a popular topic for people I had a chance to talk to this weekend and the feeling is that the 2011 draft is going to be deep, though it may lack the immediate impact factor of 2010. I think it's fair to say that you can go as deep as a Top 25 of players who can contribute, the sort of depth you never could have dreamed of for an MLS draft as recently as three years ago.
Along those lines, I will be revealing an MLS Draft Big Board later today.
Toronto threw some of the best parties in recent MLS Cup memory. Kudos to Toronto FC and to Dwayne DeRosario, who has achieved rock star status in a town that doesn't have a ton of truly popular sports celebrities.
Yes, I made my way to a few parties, including the party SBI co-hosted on Friday along with the rest of the Designated Players. The party was a major hit (thanks in large part to the work put in by Ben Hooper of Bumpy Pitch) and it's a safe bet we'll host the same MLS Cup party for a third year in a row come 2011, regardless of where the Final is held.
Lastly, the highlight of the weekend was spending time with the SBI writing staff. Avi Creditor, Adam Serrano, Jose Romero and Travis Clark were all in town and helped us provide some of the most in-depth MLS Cup coverage around.
Those are just some of the tidbits that come to mind as I think back over a fun weekend. Feel free to share your own MLS Cup weekend thoughts in the comments section below.