- Posted by Drew Epperley
- On December 8, 2013
- 0 Comments
- 2013 MLS Cup, 2013 MLS Season, Features
The weather was cold, very cold. The play was, eh, dicy at times. But the ending was exactly what every investor, front office person, fan, blogger, etc. wanted out of the MLS Cup.
I’ve been following the game a long time, from my playing days, up to now where I write about it. I’ve seen a lot of things in my short time covering this game (who am I kidding to say that writing about this sport for seven years is a long time, it’s not). But I’ve never seen a shootout quite like yesterday’s epic one between Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake.
I had planned to make the trip to Kansas City for the final but weather, travel, money and other factors kept me in Dallas for it. So instead, I watched from my house, my warm house. My wife joined me and she was impressed by the game even though she had no real rooting interest (though it quickly turned late in the game to supporting KC).
1. Physical game, just what we expected
I remember watching the lone meeting between these two sides back in the summer. That one was physical and so was this one. At times I felt the center official Hilario Grajeda wasn’t calling enough but at other times I felt he called a fairly even game. He didn’t let the moment get too big around him, and carded guys only when it was really necessary.
The contact from Sporting made it difficult for Real to really get a footing early in the game, and at times late in the match. But when things did settle down in the second half, we got some fun soccer to watch.
2. The conditions were bad to say the least
If anyone is wanting that switch to a August-to-May calendar then good luck telling the players in this league how easy it will be to play regular season games in conditions like this. It was 20 degrees at kickoff, but those temperatures continues to drop as the game went on from afternoon to evening. Some players said that there were small patches of ice on the sidelines and the field.
I saw some quotes from Salt Lake midfielder Javier Morales suggesting that the game needs to be moved back to a neutral venue because of this weather. Honestly, the only place in the country with a MLS side that could have hosted this game on this weekend would have been LA. Nearly every other venue in the country would have had pretty ugly weather to deal with here. Funny how those quotes mentioned cities like Dallas and Houston. It wasn’t any better here in Texas this weekend, that I can tell you.
But we knew the conditions going into the game would be a factor. Not only was the possession tough to watch at times but the amount of turnovers for both sides was definitely out of the norm for these two teams.
3. Dynasty in the making?
Of course the first question some folks asked is this KC group a dynasty in the making? They did win the US Open Cup in 2012 and came close in 2013. Now they can add a MLS Cup title to the case but a dynasty, no, I don’t see that happening just yet. For one, players will leave this squad here in the next couple of weeks. SKC won’t have to rebuild like other clubs in MLS but they will need to go out and probably replace their keeper Jimmy Nielsen, who I bet is going to retire a champion. And then likely replace Claudio Bieler, a guy that isn’t happy coming off the bench for Peter Vermes.
Now if they can win one more title, say that CONCACAF Champions League title next spring, then maybe we can talk.
4. The epic shootout.
Never in my life have I seen a shootout that has gone that kind of distance. Sure, I’ve seen kicks end at 7-6 in the score but it only went to the seventh round. Not the 10th. Hard to believe we were one bad bounce away from seeing both keepers go at it. That would have been even more drama.
Still, the way the game played out, it was only fitting to see it end in that manner. A couple of great saves by Nielsen, and a couple bad misses by his teammates to make it interesting. Still shocked at Graham Zusi’s miss and Alvaro Saborio’s Baggio-style kick.
5. Next steps for RSL.
A lot will come down to Jason Kreis and what he plans on doing for next year. Does he return to Salt Lake? Does he take the NYCFC gig? Or does he shock some folks and take say the Vancouver Whitecaps or FC Dallas jobs? Or is there an opening overseas that we aren’t hearing about that he takes? A lot will be known soon I’m sure but one thing is certain, what Kreis does or doesn’t do will affect the Whitecaps, NYCFC and FC Dallas…not to mention RSL.
I know Dallas for one is looking at him and his assistant Jeff Cassar for their opening on the bench. Vancouver is likely going to make a pitch to Kreis as well. Once that domino is in place, the rest will fall with it.
6. What offseason?
Really, there is no such thing as an offseason for me anymore. I may take a few days here and there from this space and not write anything. But those who come around here know that already. I’ll have more expansion coverage and SuperDraft talk in the coming days and weeks as we head towards 2014 on the calendar. It has been an amazing year in MLS, one that I certainly won’t forget anytime soon.