Photo by ISIphotos.com
Good evening all. Apologies for the lack of posts this afternoon (and the failure to deliver on Red Bulls/RSL preview and the Weekend soccer TV schedule). I am on the way to JFK for my flight to Salt Lake City and today and will look to crank out some posts in these hours before my flight.
I definitely wanted to touch on Columbus’ inspired 2-1 Eastern Conference final victory against Chicago. The Fire played a good second half but the Crew outplayed and outworked the Fire in the second half, with many Chicago players pulling Houdini acts.
Here are some observations from last night’s match:
Props to Sigi Schmid for returning to the MLS Cup final. Four years after being fired by the LA Galaxy in one of the dumber front office decisions in a long time, Schmid emerged in Columbus and built a deep and entertaining team. Yes, the Galaxy won a title after Schmid was fired, but nobody can argue that LA has been in good shape since Schmid’s departure. I spoke to Schmid a month ago about being let go by LA and one of the things he said that struck me was that he didn’t like seeing the Galaxy in the shape its in and that he feels he could have built a strong team there if given the chance. After his job in Columbus, few could argue that.
Playoff games aren’t supposed to factor into MLS awards like MVP, but Thursday’s match helped illustrate just how important Guillermo Barros Schelotto is to the Crew. From his dangerous set pieces to his beautiful passing, Schelotto is a joy to watch and a dream to play with. He is the MVP, period. Here’s hoping the same geniuses who gave Landon Donovan the Honda player of the year award don’t also taint the MLS MVP voting.
Chad Marshall is the truth. If you read SBI you know I’ve been on the Marshall bandwagon for some time now. He’s big, strong, fast, aggressive and now most importantly, he’s confident. If he stays healthy, I can’t imagine Marshall not working his way into the mix for World Cup qualifying in 2009 with the U.S. national team.
Gonzalo Segares was not himself. That’s not to take anything away from Eddie Gaven, but if you watched Segares play this year, you know that something was wrong with the Costa Rican left back. Credit to the Crew for taking full advantage.
For the second straight Eastern Conference final, Cuauhtemoc Blanco was Milk Box material. Yes, he helped set up McBride’s goal on Thursday, but he was invisible for long stretches and just didn’t play like you would expect a star of his magnitute to play. At the end of the day, Blanco was rarely on form in the second half of the season and it remains a travesty that he was an MLS MVP finalist (Juan Pablo Angel and Javier Morales were both more deserving).
Some folks were complaining about the diving by Crew players on Thursday. Yes, there was diving, including Eddie Gaven diving two or three times, drawing the free kick that led to the Crew equalizer, but there’s something to be said for the aggressive team being rewarded. Columbus was far more aggressive in the second half and the reward was having some calls go their way.
Watching Gaven play so well in such an important game had to leave some Red Bulls fans a bit miffed. Even worse for Red Bulls fans was hearing Alexi Lalas talk up Gaven and the Crew when it was he who dealt Gaven and Chris Leitch for Edson Buddle just two years ago.
Much was made about Jon Busch’s reaction to Sigi Schmid after the match. Here’s my take. If you know a player hates your guts, and has stated so publicly in the past, you probably shouldn’t try and shake his hand right after your team beat his to make the MLS Cup final. Maybe that’s just me.
Marco Pappa sure looked dangerous late in the match after coming on as a last-minute sub for the Fire. Ten years from know you will hear Fire fans talk about how Marco Pappa was amazing and should have started against the Crew. And if you didn’t hear anybody saying that before the match, don’t worry. You’re not alone (Though you’re probably not a Fire fan).
That’s all for now. I’m sure I’ll think of more but I’ll stop for now. Feel free to share your own thoughts on Thursday night’s match in the comments section below.