Cheap Seats: Expect the expected
D.C.'s in, K.C.'s out -- are really kind of a disappointment. I'm psyched about D.C.'s advancing to the semifinals and all, and I hope they go on to win the whole thing, but K.C.'s loss to Saprissa of Costa Rica totally bummed me out. As some of you know, I'm a big Bob Gansler fan -- his son Peter accused Dad of paying me off, which isn't true, but, hey, I'm willing to discuss numbers -- and after seeing Gansler's team dumped out I couldn't sleep and I ended up at the bar around the corner drinking peach lemon drop shots with a leprechaun from Maine. Seriously.
There are a couple of reasons for this, and they have long-winded explanations:
First, I really want MLS to win it. It's important not only for the teams, but for the whole league, in order to continue to prove the legitimacy and improvement of the league. It's like this: If you're a band, you've got to prove you can fill up Country Bob's Bunker before you get to play the local Enormodome. And in soccer, you've got to prove you can beat the minnows before the sharks will even consider playing you. It's like WWE that way. In the eyes of Europe's and South America's Trump-money snobs, MLS teams still need to prove themselves.
The best opportunity MLS gets to do this is the Champions' Cup. And it could've been better at one point. Back in early 2001, the Los Angeles Galaxy won the CONCACAF Champions' Cup. That victory against CD Olimpia of Honduras was huge. Really huge. Seriously, I think Ezra Hendrickson had big-haired groupies in acid-washed jeans waiting for him in the locker room after he scored the winning goal in the final.
The reason it was bigger than D.C.'s 1998 championship was because it included an automatic invitation to the inaugural FIFA Club World Championship in 2001. Some of the top clubs around the world were lined up: Real Madrid, Boca Juniors, Galatasaray, Palmeiras. Man, I'm still get goose bumps pondering the possibilities. It would've been incredible -- the first time that an MLS team got the chance to prove itself against a legitimate foreign opponent in a match that really counted for something. (Mainly, it counted for money for the teams and the players -- it's all about the Benjamins and the Euros.)
But something got screwed up -- most likely, not enough Euros slipped into the right palms -- and the much ballyhooed 2001 Club World Championship was cancelled. Just like that. Poof. That great opportunity for MLS to prove itself against the big boys disappeared. If memory serves, the Galaxy had to settle for a thank you and gift certificate to Sepp Blatter's favorite U.S. restaurant, Long John Silver's.
Now, second, (I told you it was long-winded) has to do with the league's new kid on the block. In case you didn't know, the club that beat K.C., Saprissa, is owned by none other than Jorge Vergara. As in Club Deportivo Chivas USA owner Jorge Vergara. He's kind of a soccer club franchisee that way. So, a club he's owned for a while dispatches a team from the league he's just invested in. I'm sure he's thrilled, on the one hand, but on the other, it would've a nice message for the newbie that MLS is eons ahead of the rest of the region.
Thank goodness for D.C. United and Peter Nowak. (I'm also on Nowak's payroll.) D.C. fans probably thought I was going to stress the negative. I'm pretty sure the Screaming Eagles started screaming about five paragraphs back -- "Hey, United won! Doesn't that idiot Greg know that United won?"
Well, yes, I know D.C. won. And I'm psyched, like I wrote earlier. This team goes about things the right way. Always.
Which is why D.C.'s victory doesn't affect me as much as K.C.'s loss. D.C. should've won and did win.
But K.C. should not have lost. And that's why I'm harping on K.C.'s loss (at the risk of losing my Gansler contract) and not exalting in D.C.'s victory. Because D.C. did what it was supposed to do and K.C. did not.
Greg Lalas played for the Tampa Bay Mutiny and the New England Revolution in 1996 and 1997. Send e-mail to Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views and opinions expressed in this column are the author's, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or its clubs.