Michael Bradley at Crew Stadium (April 5, 2014)
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SmorgasBorg: Columbus booed Michael Bradley? A standing ovation would've been more appropriate

It's considered by many to be the greatest soccer rivalry in the world: Real Madrid vs. Barcelona. It's well-documented.

But even a history of bad blood can take a backseat to greatness.

When Barcelona's Ronaldinho dazzled Real Madrid supporters at the Santiago Bernabéu back in 2005, they gave their bitter enemy a standing ovation despite being stung by a 3-0 defeat.

It's a sign of sophistication. And it's not rare in soccer.

If you've been around the game long enough, you've seen it before (Old Trafford did it with Ronaldo in 2003), or you've been lucky enough to be a in a stadium or arena when it has happened. Because if you're applauding an opponent in a loss, you must have watched something special.

Supporters in Columbus watched something special last Saturday. On the heels of arguably the greatest game by a US national team player in recent memory in a 2-2 draw against Mexico in midweek, Michael Bradley carried Toronto FC to an unexpected win over the Crew, scoring a sensational goal in the process (WATCH IT HERE).

Yet when he was substituted in the 73rd minute, some in the Crew Stadium crowd chose to send him off to the tune of boos.

“Between Salt Lake last week and now here, hopefully it means you’re doing something right,” Bradley told the Toronto Sun after the match.

Or maybe it's a sign of something else.

Perhaps that it's still too early to expect MLS stadiums to mimic the collective reaction of an Old Trafford or the Bernabéu. Perhaps it's too early to expect an entire MLS stadium of soccer fans to have a keen enough eye to recognize why Bradley was in fact the most dominant player on the field at Crew Stadium on Saturday.

It's probably just a question of time. Because it's clearly not a question of culture.

Win or lose, Madison Square Garden bowed in adulation when NBA great Michael Jordan put on a show. It gave a standing ovation to LA's Kobe Bryant when he hammered their Knicks over the head to the tune of 61 points.

There's a reason New York basketball fans have a reputation as the most knowledgeable in the sport and MSG is known as the mecca of basketball.

It's not that home fans don't have the right to boo opposing players, especially when they help inflict pain on their own team. Fans pay for the right to cheer (or not) as they please.

But when you're beaten by greatness, it's classy to recognize it.

We have no idea how long Bradley will keep up this vein of form. Toronto hope it will last for the next six years of his MLS contract. But in the meantime, it's probably a good idea that we don't take it for granted. Whatever stadium he happens to be playing in.


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