Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Tree Falls in New England

It was the two best teams in their league. They have met to decide the last two championships. And they have built a fierce rivalry—one that gets played out with the utmost of sportsmanship, but these two teams go at each other. And hard.

The match-up was the closest thing to a classic that the fledgling league and even younger competition could hope for.

And fucking nobody saw it.

Last night's attendance at Gillette Stadium for the 2008 SuperLiga Final between the Houston Dynamo and the New England Revolution?

A paltry 9240. Paraphrasing a dead comedian: I've had more people than that in bed before.

And seeing how the US broadcast rights were held by Telefutura and no Mexican team was in the final, the ratings were probably equally as crappy.

A good round up of the match, won 2-2 (6-5) by the Revs, can be found here (or if you want the story from the losers' side it can be found here).

But "losers" is an unfortunate term to hang on the Dynamo because both teams went at each other. The first half in particular was end to end. Both teams were still going in hard on tackles even in the extra periods. And penalties went to eight rounds before Corey Ashe pushed his attempt over hit the bar.

It was the best possible advertisement for club soccer in America, even if the copy was in Spanish. So why did fewer people see the final than saw the second shooter on the grassy knoll?

The SuperLiga has not been without its detractors. The MLS teams complained about the money: specifically that the players' cut of the winners' $1M in prize spoils was only going to be $150,000 (More on this later, as it was clear that the players wanted nothing to do with Don Garber during the trophy presentation).

The Mexicans teams complained (and other parties have agreed) that without any of the matches being played in Mexico the playing field was tilted. And speaking of playing fields, many of the pitches in the States were a step shy of being Scottish (i.e. "Not Scottish = Crap").

There was also some whinging about the obscure tie breaking rules. This was also almost exclusively from Mexican quarters as there was some confusion as to whether Chivas de Guadalajara understood the tie breakers. We blogged about it not being the standard goal difference, and while it did involve going step by step through the criteria to make sense of them, they were readily available for all to peruse.

I found them after about 20 second's time and three mouse clicks. I'm thinking if there is $1M on the line, I could probably take the time to make sure I knew the rules. They might have been confusing, but they certainly weren't hidden. And I'm willing to guess if they were likely given to each club. Meaning they didn't need to do anything but read them.

But none of these have taken away from the quality of play, which is what ultimately should drive interest. The only remaining complaint—that it's the preseason for the Mexican teams—would (and certainly does) impact that, but both leagues have agreed to the dates, so if that's really problematic, that's something that should be within their power to address going forward.

Such is the plight of soccer in the US. Goldenballs can Favre the whole of MLS, but when the two best teams square off, it still doesn't draw. Pointing fingers for that is another post. So, consider this a "heads up" for when Houston and the Revs meet a third time to decide the MLS Cup because that's the only silver lining left.

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