Lot's wife, of course, was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human. – Kurt Vonnegut
I should not be looking back. I should be looking forward to the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs, which start presently and run thusly and will manage to entertain and enthrall us for another month or so.
But I owe the 2015 MLS Regular Season this last look back, specifically at Sunday's full slate of games. This column, as a matter of fact, usually comes out late on Sunday night (after a scotch and a stroll around the block), but this week's deadline came and went as I flop-sweated my way through our live #DecisionDay postgame show. It was fun and it was different, and now I'm 24 hours late on a different coast, and I trust you'll all forgive me just enough to let me plow my way through my final "Sunday Night" column of the season.
After this it's all playoff previews and recaps, and the big-picture stuff that comes at the end of the season.
So like Lot's wife, let's all take one last look back:
1. Have A Cigar
I remember doing a podcast back in February or early March - I think it was on Red Bull Rant - and trying to convince the hosts (unapologetic RBNY fans) that actually, this team looks really good on paper. And actually, if you get the central midfield and central defense right, and have a good goalkeeper, you're pretty much already sitting on 50 points. And actually, despite all the offseason turmoil, there was every reason for confidence heading into 2015.
Even with all of that on the table, I did not expect the Red Bulls to win the Supporters' Shield. I thought they'd be a tough, smart defensive team, and an opportunistic attacking team. I thought they'd make the playoffs, but I also thought they'd struggle on set pieces (remember when Alessandro Nesta complained about Montreal's set piece defending back in 2012, when he was playing for Jesse Marsch?). I thought Bradley Wright-Phillips would come crashing back to earth, and I thought Mike Grella would be bad.
I thought this was a middle-of-the-pack playoff team. I was wrong, and it was those last three issues (set pieces, BWP and Grelladinho) that elevated the Red Bulls from "pretty good" to "hoisting silverware."
This is a well-rehearsed corner from Sunday's Shield-clinching 2-1 win at Chicago:
Obviously it's aided and abetted by the Fire's utter lack of discipline in leaving Wright-Phillips wide open, but good teams find ways to consistently punish those kinds of lapses. And so it goes for RBNY.
This is their second Shield in three years, and they've done it with two different coaches and two largely different groups of players. I don't know what the postseason holds for them - I'm still looking back, remember - but I do know that, with the way they played from Week 1 to Week 34, they absolutely deserve this:
That was the decider in Sunday's 2-1 win over the LA Galaxy, clinching a playoff berth for Sporting. It was also Feilhaber's 20th assist in all competitions, becoming only the second American to go for 20+ in one year (Landon Donovan had 21 last year).
On that particular play, Feilhaber seemed to rediscover both his change-of-pace and his burst, both of which he uses to create separation and slip attackers through. This is the Feilhaber Sporting need to have on the field if they're to have a shot in the playoffs.
1. And finally... Sebastian Giovinco finished the year with 22 goals and 16 assists. I suspect that no matter what happens in the next six weeks, I'll always remember this as The Year of Giovinco.