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Crew 2, Fire 1: A Look Back


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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.


  1. San Jose Fan,

    You do have divers at SJ. Every team has them, and nobody likes them. But its part of the game unfortunately. And please don’t try to make an argument against Chad Marshall. He’s the defender of the year for a reason, his positioning is second to none in this league. As for the chants of traitor, as a Crew fan I must admit I didn’t like that very much. But I’m sure I speak for most Crew fans when I say that we have all the respect in the world for Brian McBride. He’s pure class unlike a certain short gk who use to dawn the black and gold.

  2. Not a Fire fan… SJ Earthquakes.

    All Crew Fans are doing is pointing at Blanco, who did in-fact dive during the game, but there is a difference, Blanco would get fouled he would fall and act like a diva, slowing down the play and looking to draw yellow.(let me add that Schelloto is adapt at doing this also) Rogers and Gaven would run near the Box and flop like wet fish to get a penalty or a Freekick. Yeah the Ref let play go on to much more then i would like for both teams, but lets talk about Marshall climbing on Mcbrides back over and over again, or the horrible classless chants of traitor. Two wrongs don’t make a right, i am personally glad we don’t have any divers like Gaven at SJ.

  3. First off, great match and great atmosphere, though we could have used another $5k.

    And not just the Nordecke either, home and away supporters were loud throughout the stadium and throughout the game.

    Game itself was great, as what I think are the best two teams in MLS duked it out (maybe we can get a legit 1-8 seeding from here on out!).

    As for Gaven diving. Kind of ironic to hear Fire fans whine about it.

    1. You have Blanco and Mapp.

    2. Your goal was the result of not one, but two horrid calls on one play.

    3. You could have lost to NE had not Thor mauled Larentowicz last week.

    4. Despite some dives, there were also numerous hacks that went unpunished, including a severe one one Rogers (no card) and one on Gaven in the box.

    To Fire fans: you didn’t have the best team in the league, nor the most talented, we do.

    Check the standings and the scoreboard to verify.

  4. Also wanted to add that I’m impressed with John Thorrington — the guy clearly deserves US national team call ups. I think he’s a better player than Rico Clark in most every way.

  5. Where was Chris Rolfe in this match? I barely remember him even touching the ball. When the guy is on, he’s great (witness his hat-trick against the Red Bulls), but like Donovan there are games where Rolfe just disappears. If Rolfe could become more consistent in his great performances, I think he should be on the US 2010 squad for sure.

    Gaven should definitely gave gotten a yellow card for diving. Refs need to crack down on that early just like overly physical play or poor challenges. Gaven got away with it twice, drawing fouls, the third time was so obvious he should just have gotten a yellow card. Alejandro Moreno should also perhaps have gotten a card for diving as well.

    While on this topic, I should say that I’ve long respected Brad Davis as a player but in the first Houston-Red Bulls match at Giant Stadium I clearly saw him diving just in front of me.

  6. It was a joy to watch some real quality soccer. Sigi has out a pleasant mix of old (Frankie, Guille, Moreno and Padula) with quality youngters (Rogers, Marshall, Evans, Ekpo)to make a very entertaining team. I cannot forget Gaven either. The boy played a remarkable game last night.

    I wonder if Crew signs Sigi next year. I wonder if Marshall and Rogers are headed to Europe?

  7. To the Eddie-is-a-flopper crowd, I’ve got a test for you. I want you to go out to a field with a friend. Have hime stand about 20 yards away, and run at him at a dead sprint. When you get 2 steps past him, have him turn around and kick your foot so it hits your other leg. Keep your balance and keep running, BUT DO NOT HIT THE GROUND.

    When you can do this, at a dead run, without falling over, then you can call Eddie a flopper.

    In 30+ years of playing soccer (I started in ’77…) I’ve NEVER kept my footing when someone kicked one of my feet into the other leg. Did he stay down and ask for a call? Sure. Wouldn’t you? It’s not like you’re going to pop right back up and keep going. You got fouled. The other guy broke the rule. If the other guy doesn’t like it, tell him to defend better.

    Posted by: Brant | November 14, 2008 at 06:19 PM

    Well in my 15 years plus as playing in school and now adult leagues as a Winger/backup GK, i can tell you that if you want you can stay up. The fouls he flopped would not have knocked me down. someone clipping for feet maybe, but i counted atleast 5 times Gaven showed what he calls fair play. As long as the contact is not to my feet, it is going to take a hard shove or a lot more then a brush to knock me down. Did the Fire deserve to win, no..they did not play well enough. Are all Columbus fans blind to what everyone else saw as blatent diving ? yup.

    I don’t know, maybe i have better balance as an amateur then a professional player.

  8. To those defending Gaven,

    Yes it is true that it doesnt take much contact to knock someone down at full speed but if you looked at the time when Somare BARELY touched the BACK of Gaven’s SHOULDER, there is no way you can fall face first cuz of that. NO WAY!! The commentators got it right and those who say otherwise are plain ignorant.

  9. The MLS has gotten so much better to watch this year. That game was very entertaining.

    We should all be happy with the improved product.

    (I also thinks cooler weather leads to better football from the viewers standpoint)

  10. You sent me scrambling to Google Subotic, Austin… there it is on Fox Soccer, but I don’t see it anywhere else, so hopefully it’s a mistake, not a scoop.

    As far as the game, it’s a shame that Blanco is so prone to disappearing, especially as the game wear’s on. He doesn’t have the energy, Chicago should work in more rest so he lasts the season.

    Also, I think Chicago should trade Mapp in for other assets. Not only is he inconsistent, but if he’s exactly the type of player that would go overseas if he ever did figure it out. Cash him in for players that will be good in this league.

  11. Ives,

    Good thoughts about the game.

    The whole Busch.Schmid thing was a shame.

    I respect your take, and I do agree that Sigi should have probaly just said nothing at all. However, would it hurt Jon Busch to have an ounce of class? I do believe that he deserved the goalkeeper of the year award based on stats. But as a diehard Crew fan I would take William Hesmer on my team anyday. Believe me when I say that no one misses Johnny Boy in Columbus.

  12. Mapp is a great player when we wants to be, but he’s gonna have to be a great player all the time or else Pappa will take his spot. I remember Pappa’s debut in the Everton friendly and thinking this kid is gonna be something special. We’ve been waiting for him to take over the left side for a while yet Hamlett still insists on playing Mapp.

    Furthermore, the formation with McBride as the lone forward has to go. In the game at LA, Patrick Nyarko was tearing it up playing alongside McBride and looked extremely dangerous. It’s shocking to think he’s barely played since that game.

    Hamlett is wasting so much talent by keeping Pappa and Nyarko off the field.

  13. Drew (and Fire fans), that was my poor attempt at some sarcasm. I’ve heard the calls for Pappa and I knew there would be some I told you so’s after his red-hot cameo appearance.

  14. I’m w/fumar. Good points Ives, but if you read the red card you’d know that fire fans have been down on mapp most of the year b/c of his maddening inconsistency and have wanted to see pappa to play in his stead. So the cheap shot on Fire fans is undeserved. (hit us while we’re down, low blow)

  15. MLS Fish Market: I agree that it is easy to get knocked off the ball while running at full pace. But with that being said, these guys (all of mls) need to hit the weight room. Get stronger so you can stand with the ball and be stronger because you have the confidence of having strength. Try knocking someone off the ball who has size & speed, you will be the one taking a dump. Maybe then we will see some amazing break through runs while battling for the ball. First objective to overcome, these guys spend more time crying and running their mouths to the refs. Every single foul these guys plead their innocences as if they were OJ/Clinton. Play the game, let us handle the refs.

  16. Was it just me or did the referee miss 2 things that led to the Fire’s goal:

    A) a foul on Blanco

    B) a terrible call in giving the Fire that quick throw-in that led to that goal. Unless I am mistaken, the Fire kicked that ball out of bounds.

  17. Thank you Brant. It often seems like most US viewers and announcers of soccer matches don’t seem to understand the concept above that you have explained. While running at full speed it just doesn’t take that much contact to make someone fall.

  18. Mapp assisted on the only Fire goal last night with a nice cross into McBride.

    I think Mapp is an odd player. He just looks very awkward out there. The way he runs and some of the expressions on his way I just can’t figure out.

  19. To the Eddie-is-a-flopper crowd, I’ve got a test for you. I want you to go out to a field with a friend. Have hime stand about 20 yards away, and run at him at a dead sprint. When you get 2 steps past him, have him turn around and kick your foot so it hits your other leg. Keep your balance and keep running, BUT DO NOT HIT THE GROUND.

    When you can do this, at a dead run, without falling over, then you can call Eddie a flopper.

    In 30+ years of playing soccer (I started in ’77…) I’ve NEVER kept my footing when someone kicked one of my feet into the other leg. Did he stay down and ask for a call? Sure. Wouldn’t you? It’s not like you’re going to pop right back up and keep going. You got fouled. The other guy broke the rule. If the other guy doesn’t like it, tell him to defend better.

  20. Gee Ives it’d be nice to see Marshall in 2009 World Cup and the 2013 World cup.See where I’m going with this? Jk. But in all seriousness I think that Marshall has had a run of bad luck with injuries and that seems to happen alot. Eddie Gaven is a definite prospect for a replacement for Dempsey on the right if we wanna put Dempsey as a forward.(and you know you want to.)

  21. Mapp is like Eddie Johnson in my opinion. Both either have problems with heart or confidence or both. Often, they seem to be just filling a position. They won’t go after 50/50 balls…yet they both of loads of talent.

    Does Mapp practice well?

  22. Ives, really good stuff all around, as usual. I will say that, without it being a criticism of Sigi Schmid’s coaching ability, I don’t know that the situation in LA allows one the chance to collect young players, sort through who can play, who can’t; acquire an unsung but key piece like Brian Carrol; getting the centerpiece in GBS without blowing your cap; or even make a shrewed acquisition in the key, but unsung Brian Carrol.

    In LA the mentality seems to be ‘we need stars and *name* players results and we need them now’. It’s not working.

  23. I agree with Fumar. We’ve been itching to see more of Pappa and Nyarko.

    Two things are true about Gaven: he burned the Fire defense to get into position to draw yellows, and he flopped like a wet noodle on the ground both times. And yes, Blanco does it too. Come to think of it, so does Mapp. In fact, Gaven and Mapp have a lot in common in my book, except of course that Gaven set up one goal (via the foul he drew) and scored another and Mapp… well, he played.

  24. I’ve been calling for Pappa to start since the mid. Why doesn’t the Crew change their logo to 3 players that are on the team opposed to the 3 Mama’s boy thugs on their now?

    Fire will be back next year and will be unstoppable.

  25. Dead on with everything. Except no one calling for Pappa to start or at least see more time. ALL FIRE FANS WERE! I hope he’s back next year.


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