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When Schmid Met Schelotto…

This is the face of the only coach to ever win the MLS Cup  with a team that had not finished better than 6th in the three previous seasons. It’s also the face of the only man to win the Cup with two different teams. Why the Galaxy would have ever let him go is beyond me. Oh yeah, that’s right, it’s more important to entertain and lose (Yay! The Gals lost 4-3 again! Whooopeee) than to play hard-nosed defense and eke out 1-0 wins.

Sigi Schmid won many games in L.A. for the Gals, but his brand of soccer wasn’t “attractive” enough for his bosses, so he was tossed out on his rear end. He was actually fired while he was at lunch with the GM, who said the team needed “more goals” and “excitement”.

Schmid possibly could have avoided the termination by simply declining the invite to eat… but who are we kidding, Sigi cannot resist a buffet, even if his receipt comes with a pink slip.

After a short stint amongst the ranks of the unemployed, he ended up in Columbus where his new squad struggled two years in a row. Some teams (like the Galaxy) would have no doubt ran him out of town with pitchforks and torches before the start of the third season, but CMB’s owners and fans did not, and he has rewarded their patience with their first title.

Oh and it worked out well for him too with the MLS Cup Final being played @ the HDC today, his former stomping grounds. I am sure there is no pitch in the world Schmid could have been more delighted to celebrate on after the Crew’s historic win today. Not to mention, it must have made him proud to have done it with less than a fourth of the payroll than the Galaxy had @ their disposal this season. He has proved his point about “solid soccer” over “sexy soccer” and I commend him for staying true to the edict that it’s better to play good soccer and win than entertaining soccer and lose.  

Not that the Crew didn’t entertain though this Sunday, because they definitely did. One man in particular delighted the crowd again and again with his unparalleled creativity and tireless dedication.

His is the face of the 2008 MLS MVP & MLS Cup MVP. The man who (contrary to dozens of reports written in the last 24 hours… geez soccer journos, do a little research) is actually not a DP like Beckham because he only makes a measly $250,000 base salary. He makes substantially more than that with incentives (all of which he probably met this season), but it’s interesting to note that Becks is probably easily ten times more expensive than GBS, but he’s only half as good and one-fourth the leader. Talk about bang for your buck.

Schelotto was simply amazing today. He appeared to basically just do whatever he wanted on offense, and his contributions easily could have led to this game ending 5-1 instead of 3-1, but the posts continued to be Cepero’s best mates. His defense is underrated too. Unlike Beckham, GBS actually tries to take the ball from his opponents and he was successful in stifling NYRB on Sunday.

Finally, this is the face of Jesus. Actually, no, it’s just Frankie, unfortunately without his Christ-like beard. He looks great with that beard, and I don’t think it’s physically possible, but I also am of the opinion it somehow helps his game. Plus, he looks so much like JC the team’s slogan should be The Passion of the Crew. Frankie played damn well Sunday and he has been this team’s emotional leader all season, while Schelotto occupies the role of the calm, physical leader. His late goal was the cherry on top of a delicious Sunday (pun definitely intended). I’m happy he’s enjoying the honors he has earned for the citizens of Columbus and Crew fans nationwide.

All in all, it was a fitting finale to the 2008 MLS Season, the Supporters’ Shield winning Columbus Crew overwhelmed the upstart New York Red Bulls 3-1 at the Home Depot Center in California, just like they were supposed to.

The game was sort of a microcosm of the Crew’s whole season. Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Chad Marshall, Frankie Hejduk and Sigi Schmid all played giant roles both in the final victory and in the entire amazing run which resulted in Columbus’s first MLS Cup Championship.

Not much happened early in the game as both sides appeared to be a little nervous and, as a result, played some pretty sloppy soccer (the kind fans of some MLS squads have become familiar with). Moreno’s first goal seemed to irrevocably alter the game’s momentum though. Up until that point, NYRB had actually controlled the game to some extent, but after Moreno gave the Crew the lead, NYRB seemed to lose its cohesion.

Moreno’s goal was assisted by Schelotto, who (as usual) seemed to make something out of nothing by firing a long pass to Moreno after a broken play. Moreno’s shot didn’t have much on it, but Cepero played the ball poorly and could only deflect it into the side of the net.

John Wolyniec evened the score after half with help from Dangerous Dane Richards. Richards, who is only 24, really played well at the end of the season, and I would not be surprised to see him leave MLS for greener pastures soon (well, since he’s from Jamaica maybe “greener pastures” may have been a bad metaphor). He has great speed with the ball, and if he could correct some mental deficiencies (like his hot temper and penchant for the art of the dive), he could make quite a name for himself abroad.

But then I guess he wouldn’t get to go to Applebees anymore. Seriously Dane, you got to try some other places to eat. Maybe if you get a nice new deal, you will be able to afford to go to a restaurant where the waiters don’t have to wear fifteen freaking pieces of flair a la Office Space.

Just after Dane helped get NYRB into position though, Chad Marshall notched the winner off another assist (predictably) from Schelotto. Marshall has proven himself to be one of the top MLS defenders out there and definitely earned his Defender of the Year honors.

Hejduk put the nail in the coffin with the third goal with less than 10 minutes remaining. Frankie headed it home solidly, but the score was attributable to Schelotto, who brilliantly lifted a pass over the backline directly onto Frankie’s head. Schelotto’s & Hejduk’s metaphorical money shot exhibited the kind of talent and creativity that should be delivered in every MLS game.

The Crew should take the time to savor their historic victory (perhaps @ Applebees with Dane?). Columbus has waited thirteen years for this title, and to the diehard Crew fans out there, I’d like to say “congrats”. To the Crew players, I’d like to say “well done” and “you earned it”.

Oh, and I’d tell them to “shave”. Now that the championship has ended, and the season is past, they need to shave off those playoff beards. Gaven’s looked great, but some of those guys (i.e. Robbie Rogers) need to wait for puberty to set in before their next postseason run.

Columbus will now hoist the Alan I. Rothenberg trophy. Oh, I guess not… Actually, MLS has replaced Lord Rothenberg’s Cup with a new trophy, named after Philip F. Anschutz . I am not sure why MLS would replace Rothenberg, who was a driving force behind the creation of the league. I know Anschutz has ponied up quite a bit of the money for this little experiment in sport and commerce, but it seems strange to me the league would just randomly decide to star engraving winners’ names on new hardware. In any event, CMB was the best team in the league this year and, regardless of the lack of authenticity and tradition in their trophy, they are genuine champions.

I do have just one more thing to get off my chest though… And (as usual) it involves the announcers.

ABC/ESPN, I have one request. Please, no more John Harkes. He makes the game seem about as exciting as watching someone else watch paint dry. He doesn’t provide any beneficial analysis besides stating the obvious. He’s pretty useless. Why not throw Julie Foudy in there and see how it goes. I don’t think people would turn the game off if there was a woman announcer in the booth (even mysoginists know how to use the mute button).

This is the face of the woman who could become one of the first female sports announcers to call games regularly for a men’s professional league. As you can see, she’s already had an opportunity to deal with powerful, sexist men. She brings a slew of experience and a straight forward approach to the table, and she will at least keep it lively, unlike Harkes, who induces sleep in even individuals on meth binges.

Come on guys, you know she would be better than Harkes and it would be nice to see a woman regularly calling games for a men’s professional sports league. It would actually give ESPN/ABC some much needed diversity by proving they will consider females for some role other than the sexy sideline chick.

Not that I have anything against those chicks (especially, UF alum Erin Andrews). I just think it’s high time for a woman to break this barrier, and Foudy is better prepared to do it than anyone out there.