MLS FINDS ROAD GOALS ARE NOT KRYPTONITE
December 7, 2014, 4:26 pm
Filed under: Away goals rule
| Tags: Brad Evans
, Bruce Arena
, CenturyLink Field
, Clint Dempsey
, Columbus Crew
, FC Dallas
, Landon Donovan
, Los Angeles Galaxy
, Major League Soccer
, New England Revolution
, New York Red Bulls
, Real Salt Lake
, Seattle Sounders
, StubHub Center
, Village People
The Los Angeles Galaxy lost to the Seattle Sounders, 2-1, on a frigid night at CenturyLink Field but won the Western Conference final on away goals to advance to Major League Soccer’s championship game.
The Galaxy, which a week earlier took the first game of its home-and-home series, 1-0, will return to the StubHub Center on December 7 to play host to the New England Revolution in the MLS Cup final. New England defeated the New York Red Bulls, 2-1 and 2-2, in the Eastern Conference finals for a 3-2 aggregate.
Brad Evans, in the 26th minute, and Clint Dempsey, six minutes later, scored to give the Sounders hope of reaching their first MLS final, but nine minutes into the second half L.A. midfielder Juninho pounced on a deflected corner kick by Landon Donovan and ripped a shot in off the left post for his first goal in 13 months. [November 30]
Comment: The last stupid MLS idea has died peacefully of natural causes.
And we don’t mean the Columbus Crew’s decision to dump its Village People logo once and for all (that’s called “re-branding”).
MLS finally succumbed to the use of the aways goals rule this playoff season, and the world did not come to an end. Both the Eastern Coference semifinals and finals were decided on aggregate goals, as did one Western semifinal, won by L.A. over Real Salt Lake. And when the Galaxy walked off the CenturyLink Field at the final whistle after the road leg of its Western Conference final, the partisan Sounder crowd of 46,758 accepted the fact that its side, winners on the night by a goal, were losers overall.
Some in the media here didn’t quite know what to make of this new gimmick, although it’s used in cup competitions the world over. “Rules of the road lift Galaxy into the final” read one newspaper headline. Another: “Galaxy’s Goal is One for the Road.” But a worthy winner was produced. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena called the concept of the away-goals rule–an incentive for the road team to attack in the first leg–“garbage,” and it certainly didn’t inspire Seattle to produce an away goal or two in the first leg. But no one at CenturyLink exited wringing their hands over an injustice. Everyone knew the rules going in. In fact, the Sounders were the first team in MLS history to advance on away goals, eliminating FC Dallas nearly three weeks earlier in the Western semifinals (1-1 in Texas, 0-0 at home). And there was no effect at the gate: MLS drew a record average attendance of 19,151 during the regular season–once again better than the NBA and NHL–and 21,275 during the playoffs. Not a tremendous accomplishment, unless one recalls the days in the not-too-distant past when most MLS post-season matches drew crowds embarrassingly smaller than many regular-season games.
Americans fans, apparently, have been more adaptable than MLS gave them credit for over its 19-season run. Or at least they were tolerant. They’ve had to endure earlier MLS playoff concoctions, such as the ponderous best-of-three-games playoff. And the ridiculous “first-to-five-points” system. Once it got to the simple home-and-home formula in 2003, it counted road goals equal to home goals, perhaps in the belief that a romp by the visiting team in the opening leg would kill interest in the second leg.
Fans here also–some of them–survived other MLS innovations, like the silly countdown clock, and they survived leftovers from the old NASL, like the shootout, back when it was believed that American DNA made it impossible for folks here to understand, let alone appreciate, the concept of a draw. Perhaps the seamless debut of away goals signals the end, once and for all, of its “unnecessarily creative” period.
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