Tag Archives: mls

The Biggest Mess in Major League Soccer

Major League Soccer’s 19-team league season ends in a one-month, winner-takes-all playoff competition designed to generate a crazy amount of fun in a short period of time, but not necessarily to hand the cup to the team that, by any European standard, is truly the best in the land. In 2010, the un-fancied Colorado Rapids rose from sixth seed to beat FC Dallas, the most successful regular-season team, in the MLS Cup final. Real Salt Lake had done something similar the year before, and, even further back, teams like the New England Revolution had prided themselves on season-defying mid-October bursts that, almost inevitably, ended in cup-final appearances

These stories don’t illustrate the beauty of underdog successes. Contrary to popular belief, underdog successes are never “good for the game,” unless you think that stripmining the game’s biggest stars from the game’s biggest showcase is positive and exciting and worth dancing in front of the TV about. Rather, these stories reveal the inherent randomness of the MLS playoffs: Since the competition admits nine of its 19 teams into the post-season, there’s always a chance that one of the lesser lights will put together a run and knock out a more established force.

The 2012 MLS Cup final is still about a week and a half away, but one team we know won’t be playing in it is the San Jose Earthquakes, whose league-topping regular-season performances counted for nothing in the Western Conference semi-finals. But arguably the most shocking casualty of this year’s playoffs is the New York Red Bulls – not shocking in the sense that no one expected New York to be eliminated, but shocking in the holy-shit-they-really-screwed-up sense, where you’ve got your jaw hanging open even before the final whistle sounds, and then two days and a lot of internal therapy later your jaw’s still hanging open (and, at this point, people are starting to stare) because it was just that mesmerizingly gruesome.

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Chris Wondolowski and the Beauty of Records

Chris Wondolowski is celebrating right before my eyes, which isn’t much of a surprise, because he’s celebrating right before everyone else’s, too. He’s grinning in that half-serial-killer half-kid-in-a-candy-shop way that’s endearing but also kind of terrifying. In a few days, he’ll probably be crowned the best – or, because this is America, “the most valuable” – MLS player of the 2012 season. In the unlikely event that someone else wins, San Jose fans will get very upset, and a massive Internet argument, replete with blog posts, newspaper articles, Twitter feuds, and message board profanity, will ensue. Wondo – who plays foil to strike partner and probable-Antichrist Steven Lenhart[1], and who also scores goals[2] and smiles and always stays on his feet, will say he doesn’t care, that there’s no “I” in team, but really he’ll be smarting, because these things matter more than they should.

For those of you who don’t already know, Wondolowski is, alongside the MLS Disciplinary Committee, the most talked-about story of MLS 2012. His team, the San Jose Earthquakes, won this year’s Supporter’s Shield[3] in buccaneering, come-from-behind style. For his part, Wondo has spent the year chasing the record for most goals scored in a single MLS season.

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Where Will Tim Cahill Fit In?

A quick piece on Tim Cahill’s move to the New York Red Bulls…

The guy who punches corner flags is coming to MLS. That may be a reductive way to present Tim Cahill’s underrated talent, but it’s the line that New York Red Bulls fans have immediately latched onto. The LA Galaxy have a cartwheeling, machine-gun-blasting Irishman up front. Now the New York faithful, too, can enjoy an unorthodox celebration.

The Red Bulls, who currently sit atop the Eastern Conference, have already done a lot of celebrating this season: they’re Major League Soccer’s second-most prolific team behind the San Jose Earthquakes, and, in Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper, they boast two of the league’s most efficient marksmen. New York are famous for their attack-oriented style, a zesty playing philosophy that ignores one of the fundamentals of modern football – defending. They’ve conceded 29 goals this season, more than any other team in the Eastern Conference’s top six. Nevertheless, the Red Bulls remain one of the favorites for this year’s MLS Cup.

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