Well, I just spent a lovely rainy morning watching the Crew-Fire match, which turned out to be a pretty good advertisement for the league. Momentum shifted, veteran internationals and young Americans were on display, the pace and excitement of the game were high, and there were chances at both ends. So let's hit some talking points from the match that saw Sigi return to the MLS Cup Final . . .
* Stay classy, Crew fans. Jumpin' Jeebus on a pogo stick! McBride gave you how many great years and how many goals? Not to mention the fact that he's one of the classiest, if not the classiest, guys in American soccer. And you have the temerity to boo him and call him a traitor? I know it wasn't all of you, but I hope the ones that were engaged in this nonsense feel pretty stupid about it now. And I hope that deft little header nestling in the back of the net hurt--and hurt bad. I was completely neutral in this contest, but just for the sake of causing you emotional trauma, I was starting to pull for the Fire.
* Rockin' Rogers. Damn, but I do love that kid! If ever any American could be said to fit the definition of "tricksy wing wizard" then Rogers fits the bill. I'm looking for him to become more and more involved with the senior US squad moving forward into 2009. A candidate for South Africa? He's got my vote. Another question when it comes to Crew wide men. Is Eddie Gaven's beard the most disturbing thing in American soccer?
* A tale of two playmakers. As the big names went, so went the game. Blanco had a few nice touches in the match but never made a sustained contribution to the game. Schelotto, on the other hand, only seemed to grow in influence as the game progressed. Is there really any doubt about who the MLS MVP should be this season?
* Sigi the Fox. Chicago had the veteran squad, and it showed early. They came out with all the momentum, while the Crew looked tentative and scared. Chicago grabbed the goal, and it was starting to look like the Crew's magnificent season was coming unravelled. But they rallied towards the end of the half, and remained in the ascendency after the break. Sure some of that is down to the Crew's own veterans, and some credit has to go to home-field advantage, but I'm not going to underestimate the influence of the Coach of the Year--not only because of in-game adjustments and motivation, but because of the long-term approach he took to building a team capable of responding like that.
* Long Haired Fullbacks Unite! Having spent much of my playing career as one of the exalted brethren of long haired fullbacks, I have to say that it warmed the cold, cynical cockles of my heart to see the Crew sporting a pair from this elite band of brothers. Almost shed a tear, I did. Then I saw Hejduk touch the ball, and the warmth fled my heart.
So congrats to the Crew on their deserved victory. Will they be able to complete the Cup-Shield double? They'll certainly go in as favorites, regardless of who wins the West tonight. Besides which, you, my esteemed readers, favored them even before this match was in the books.