Sunday, November 30, 2008

MLS 2008 Champions

Your 2008 champions of Major League Soccer: the Columbus Scruh, ... Crew.

What is more embarrassing? Having the commissioner of the league you just won a championship in come one letter short of calling you the "screw" on national television or having that same commissioner try to present the trophy to captain Guillermo Barros Schelotto when the captain was actually Frankie Hejduk; the guy strategically placed next to the cup for ease of transfer?

Suck a big one, Don.

Classic fail from the league head chimp aside, winning the 2008 MLS championship capped off a wonderful season that was a long time coming. There were a lot more fans that deserved this championship more than I. I can only offer praise to the groups that stayed with the team throughout the worst of the worst to finally get to greatness. I wasn't there for every game nor did I watch every game on television or at bar with a tab full of expensive finger foods and beer.

List of team accomplishments:

  • Took home the Trillium Cup; the league promoted distance rivalry between Columbus and Toronto, by beating them at home, then earning two draws on the road
  • Took control of the Supporter's Shield for having the best record at the end of the season
  • Defender of the Year for Chad Marshall
  • Coach of the Year for Sigi Schmid
  • Most Valuable Player for Guillermo Barros Schelotto
  • Took home the 2008 MLS Cup for defeating Kansas City on aggregate goals, the Chicago Fire 2-1 at home, and then the New York Red Bulls 3-1 in Carson City
  • MLS Cup MVP for Guillermo Barros Schelotto for directly assisting on all three goals
I made sure I picked up a copy of the Columbus Dispatch to tuck away somewhere as a memory for my later years. It would be nice to pick up a photoset, too.

Some consider the celebration short-lived. An expansion draft was held the next Thursday and starter Brad Evans went to Seattle. There is talk that defender of the year Chad Marshall is heading overseas (more cash and higher level of play) and that coach of the year, Sigi Schmid is heading to Seattle to be closer to family on the West Coast and to get a longer-term contract (three years) to make it easy to settle somewhere. A sizable chunk of cash will be required to sign Guillermo Barros Schelotto for another year or so. There are developmental players that will be waived. There will be veterans that will probably be asked to step down.

Regardless of these developments, 2008 was a triumphant year for the Columbus Crew. Nothing can take that away.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

MLS conference finals

I have some catching up to do here?

The Crew went on to defeat the Kansas City Wizards in Columbus which sent them to the finals. Chicago pounded a wounded New England three zip in Bridgeview, sending them to face us in the Eastern Conference finals. It was a match for the ages, everything it was supposed to be and then some.

There were so many back stories.

The biggest one was the return of Brian McBride. McBride was one of the original Crew players and face of the organization. To this day, people still associate McBride with Columbus. Brian left in 2003 to join English Premier League (top level) club Fulham. This season, he returned to America to end his career in the MLS but not for Columbus; he wanted to play for Chicago, his hometown (Arlington Heights). His first encounter with his former MLS team was in Chicago where he had the first and last goals of the two goal tie. Now he would make his return to Columbus with our elimination on his mind.

Another big story was the return of fan favorite Jon Busch. Jon was acquired in the 2002 SuperDraft and was starting for the Crew by 2003. Busch was between the pipes when Columbus won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 2002 and won goalkeeper of the year in 2004. He suffered season ending ACL injuries in both 2005 and 2006. He was waived in 2007, picked up by Toronto, then waived again and then picked up by Chicago. Busch has been, and always will be, a vocal person. The person who once stated that he could not see playing anywhere but Columbus was now displaying public anger towards Coach Sigi Schmid.

What else? The Fire had Kettering, Ohio native Chris Rolfe. Both teams played to two, two to two draws. Chicago was the only team Columbus did not defeat in 2008. The Crew lost to Chicago back in the June Open Cup match.

The first goal of the match was the worst possible scenario. Roughly 30 minutes into the game a defensive brain fart lets McBride get a head on a Mapp cross. One to zip, visitors and the travelling fans were jubilant. The Columbus fans never gave up though. The second half was a completely different story.

Roughly 50 minutes into the match, Crew central defender Chad Marshall out-duals the aerial powerhouse McBride and heads home a Guillermo Barros Schelotto free-kick. It was a perfect strike off the cross-bar; nothing anyone could have done to stop it. Five minutes later, Eddie Gaven buries a low, bouncing shot underneath Busch for the second goal. That one would end up the game winner.

About forty nervous minutes followed. I certain every single Crew fan was thinking the same thing: when was McBride going to tie this in the dying moments of regulation (just like he did in Chicago). Well, it didn’t happen. A few missed heartbeats later the Crew were going to their first MLS Cup with their first conference championship.

Massive.

The Crew will face the Western Conference champions - the New York Red Bulls??? Don't ask. Just destroy them.

Monday, November 03, 2008

MLS semi-finals, leg 1

The first leg of the home and away aggregate goal series went close to how I thought it would go. The Crew tied the Wizards with a late goal; so they will have to win the series at home. Wizard play maker Hercules Gomez will sit out that game because he was ejected after a violent foul in game one. New England was unable to score goals at home but luckily for them, the Fire didn’t score any either so their series is tied. The Red Bulls tied Houston on their home turf so they will probably get pounded when they travel to Houston. Real Salt Lake took a goal at home and hopefully they will survive their trip to California. Not surprising, there were three ties out of four games and not much scoring.