Real Salt Lake Pulls A RBNY In The East Final

It’s just not right is it? Somehow you look at this situation in the MLS Eastern Conference Final that Real Salt Lake, a club from the West came to Chicago and defeated them in a penalty kick shootout to take the Eastern Conference crown and will face fellow western club Los Angeles Galaxy at Qwest Field in Seattle for the League crown. Gee where have I seen this before? Oh that’s right last years playoffs when Red Bull NY took on both Houston Dynamo and Real Salt Lake for their first Western Conference title.

Then two time defending champion Houston Dynamo came to the Meadowlands last year in the first leg of the goal aggregate West Semi-final playoffs and were very lucky to leave the swamp with a late goal to tie the aggregate, but RBNY traveled down to Houston with confidence and took out the Dynamo with three goals and won the aggregate four to one. Then the one goal victory over Real Salt Lake in the West Final that sent the club to the Home Depot Center to face eventual MLS Cup Champions Columbus Crew.

Now look at Real Salt Lake in this years playoffs. They are doing the same thing that RBNY did last year. They faced defending champion Columbus Crew and defeated them three goals to two on aggregate in the east semis & a thrilling 5-4 penalty kick shootout win for RSL to advance to the finals when there were no goals scored in regulation and overtime.

My former colleague from Champions Soccer Radio Network Peter Brown told me that the Columbus Crew had to beat RBNY for the good of the league, on an episode of Around the Playoffs. I guess we have to say the same thing about the Los Angeles Galaxy that they have to win the title for the good of the league and to make sure things end up the right way. This doesn’t mean I am picking the Galaxy to defeat Real Salt Lake, it just means that if we want this cup to be handed to a proper champion then the current structure should mean the Galaxy’s opponents has to come from a club in the east, not a guest who made it in the last minute and happened to be in the eastern playoffs.

But wait one minute that would be the pot calling the kettle black wouldn’t it? I mean if Red Bull NY did win the cup last year and if RSL does upset the Los Angeles Galaxy in MLS Cup Final next Sunday, should we say this wasn’t good for the league? In all honest it really shouldn’t matter as a champion was crowned and we should all give either RSL or the Galaxy the proper respect they deserve for winning the cup.

What would be the easiest solution to fix this mess? I believe next season Major League Soccer should go to a single table and scrap the East & West Conference standings all together. Now if you saw the interview with Don Garber on the Fox Football Fone-In, you saw the argument being made that single table that works in Europe won’t work here. Well in a certain way that’s not true. Single table can still work if you use it for playoff positioning.

You can have all matches mean something till the bitter end and still fight for that 8th position to clinch that last playoff spot. Of course the regular season would mean something when a club wins top of the table can still advance to the group stages of the CONCACAF Champions League. It would solve some of the problems when supporters of the league feel that something isn’t right to crown a champion. Then you can have 1 Vs 8, 2 Vs 7, 3 Vs 6 & 4 Vs 5.

But right now it’s Real Salt Lake’s turn to be ridiculed for winning the East since they are members of the West. Time for everyone to point the finger of blame at RSL and tell them they didn’t deserve to win the East. But you know what, tough. MLS made up the rules and we all have to live by them. When they hammer out a new C.B.A. with the players union hopefully the league will change the playoff rules. Till then enjoy the final folks.

35 thoughts on “Real Salt Lake Pulls A RBNY In The East Final”

  1. I have to admit I’m not real familiar with the history of the MLS Playoff format, but I don’t understand why the semi-finals aren’t played in the home and away format. It makes sense for the final to be a one-off, but the semis seem like it should be home and away to avoid these fluke situations.

    1. Really there is no need for this, though.

      RSL has one of the best home records in MLS, and one of the worst away records. They traveled to a sold out Toyota Park and came away with essentially a tie on the road.

      They were the best team, and returning to Salt Lake would have confirmed it as Chicago would have struggled with the altitude and time difference.

      RSL peaked at the right time and we’re heading for what will be an exciting MLS final in Seattle…two teams that will be on the attack, one with the two biggest names in MLS, the other with a quality, all around side that makes up for it’s lack of name recognition in its excellent play as a team.

      I’m going for RSL in this final, because I think Will Johnson deserves that Cup.

  2. Even if it were single table RSL would have still faced Columbus and still beat them 4-2 on aggregate. They have clearly played the best soccer during the playoffs with their passing, movement, and intent (always attacking). One of RSLs two road wins came against LA, and they were the best home team in MLS history in terms of goal differential. This team fully deserves to have a chance at the title. I hope the dream continues. Go RSL!!!

  3. This is the third time teams from the same division have met in the final. Last year obviously, and 2001 when LA and San Jose emerged as the finalists from the short-lived three-division setup.

    MLS changed the system in 2007, which specifically allowed this result to happen. They can hardly complain about it now.

  4. Adamn G, you are correct that had we of had the Single table with playoff format then Columbus would still have faced RSL. I also agree RSL have been hot at the right moment, and in fact hope they beat LA. However, I think the goal is to destroy the hypocrisy that occurs when you have a western team as eastern champs. and vice versa. Garber mentioned someone would have to explain the reasons for a single table format to get him for it, but in reality I don’t think he has much control, doesn’t the Board of Competition and Governors have a say in the scheduale and type of table?

  5. I’ll be pulling for Real Salt Lake because they are are really good team and the key word is TEAM. Plus I can’t stand Beckham’s CONSTANT whining.

    1. I don’t really understand why there is an expansion draft. It’s not like MLS is the only soccer league in the world and that there is some great shortage of soccer players in the world.

      It isn’t hockey, it isn’t Pointyball, it isn’t baseball, and it isn’t basketball where there are few leagues of the quality that the North American leagues are.

      Expansion teams should just go out and buy up an army of 2nd and 3rd div players from Europe, or South America.

          1. Fair enough, my thoughts on that matter are contingent upon teams choosing well in an expansion draft, like Seattle did this year. What that does is give the team a fairly solid corps of squad members. Certainly not star quality players, but fringe starters and depth makers, the kind of players who make a difference in the summer when the team is juggling Open Cup play and the like.

            The expansion draft rules don’t let teams protect *all* of their best players, so there are usually a few gems out there for teams to pick up that let them get up to speed more quickly than they otherwise would. That’s important because this league likes teams to be competitive with each other.

            I’m sure there are undiscovered gems in the lower divisions of US Soccer, but I’d say that by and large, the reason they’re playing there and not MLS is because they simply aren’t good enough to do so yet, or they’re just good enough that they’d command more money than an MLS club can afford to splash out on what is essentially a squad player.

  6. I posted a similar msg on the NAS list, but here it is again for those that didn’t see it.

    I don’t believe this analogy is very accurate.

    RSL basically backed into the playoffs this year the same way they did this year. When RB came and beat RSL in Utah last year, RSL by default hosted that game, they weren’t much better than RB. However, RSL going to Chicago and winning in Bridgeview was a much bigger task. Chicago almost won the Eastern conference during the regular season and almost everyone was predicting that the Fire would advance.

    In other words, 2009 RSL beating Chicago is far greater than 2008 RB beating RSL. The only releveant analogy is that a western team won the East and last year a eastern team won the West.

    Plus the fact that NYRB lost to the Crew last year in the Cup, where as RSL will defeat LA this year. :)

    As for the idea that the playoffs are broken. Who cares? Chicago, Seattle or Crew don’t get magically awarded for doing well during the regular season. They had their chance like everyone in the post season, and they didn’t produce.

  7. “But right now it’s Real Salt Lake’s turn to be ridiculed for winning the East since they are members of the West. Time for everyone to point the finger of blame at RSL and tell them they didn’t deserve to win the East. But you know what, tough. MLS made up the rules and we all have to live by them. ”

    Um, why not blame the Eastern Conference teams for failing to protect the E.C. shield against this RSL side that was allegedly terrible when the playoffs started? They put both Columbus and Chicago to the sword, the two best the east had to offer, and they really did both on the road.

  8. The format is great. It’s incredibly entertaining and unpredictable. Isn’t that what we want? A single table playoff seeding process wouldn’t have presented the great situation this year where EVERY game on the last day of the season meant something. Every team’s fans had a reason to watch the last day. That single table stuff would kill that because rather than having a 7th place team that is 3 points out of the last playoff spot, you’d have a 16th place team that is 6 or more points out and playing for nothing. How would that generate fan interest in a young growing league.

    The Europeans currently (though not necessarily historically) accept their soccer leagues as a class system. They consider it ok that Atletico Madrid has no chance of winning La Liga because they’re just not in the same class as Real or Barcelona. Maybe you can get away with that in a league whose fanbase is 100 years old. But if you start setting things up such that teams are eliminated with games to spare, you’ll start killing the fanbase. We don’t have classes in MLS. That’s a feature of our league and something that (North) American fans tend to embrace.

    It is not a good idea to unleash something that would have such unintended consequences just to imitate other leagues.

  9. as a crew fan yea the eastern conference did suck this year, Real Salt Lake did what any team wanna do and that is be the team that upsets everybody and i believe that they will finish the job.

  10. Having playoffs would be completely stupid if there’s a single table. What would be the point? You’d be asking everyone to close their eyes and pretend they didn’t just watch the champion being determined by regular season play.

    (I agree that it’s dumb to have a western conference team winning the eastern conference championship, but that’s a different issue.)

  11. It is ok the world is not going to end. I think the system is fine. The current play-off system promotes regional rivalry games (LA vs. Chivas and Chicago vs. New England), feasible travel for the away fans, and the eight teams with the best seasonal records are rewarded with a playoff spot.

  12. I’m sorry I must missed something, but winning or not…RSL are terribly boring to watch…ugh…Congrats to RSL for winning the East, but i’m not at all excited about watching them in the final.

      1. Well, you don’t need to call him a moron, but I would also demur with Jayoh.

        I think the team has had a mental block about playing on the road the last few years, but maybe coming up huge like they have this season will give the players some belief. Who knows? All I know is that for the last three or four games RSL has been very fun to watch.

  13. It doesn’t bother me all that much the RSL “won” the east. What does bother me is that they got a much easier second round game because of the conference system. RSL were 8th, they beat 1st, but then got to play 5th (who beat 7th) in the semi-final. Under a single tably system, after they beat 1st, they would have played the winner of 4th v 5th (or 2nd, depending on if it was pre-bracketed like NBA and college basketball, or reshuffled for each round like Hockey and NFL).

    I’m not denying that RSL are playing great, but I just think the fact that it took them most of the season to find their form should have consequences. They were the 8th seed and should have a hard path. As fans we go to games in the first half of the season because we believe the results matter, thus, having more or less points than the other play-off teams should matter.

    I don’t see how a single table would have meant less teams in the play-off race- the 7th -12th teams were all within 3 points of each other, they were all competing for the final two spots (as a Colorado fan- I’ll have nightmares about it all winter!).

    As far as a 2-game first round, and then single game later rounds goes, I’m fine with that. The one game format is better, but if you’re team makes the play-offs you should get at least one game to watch at home.

  14. “Having playoffs would be completely stupid if there’s a single table. What would be the point? You’d be asking everyone to close their eyes and pretend they didn’t just watch the champion being determined by regular season play.”

    Wouldn’t playoffs be the absolute best way to determine seeding for the playoffs? That’s the way I see it. The divisional and conference based systems always allow teams that don’t really belong into the postseason in the other American sports leagues. And teams that do belong get snubbed because a worse team is a “division champion” or something like that.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but hasn’t it already been announced a balanced schedule will be played next season? If they still intend to seed teams by the conference tables, that’s just as ridiculous as having a western team be eastern conference champions.

    Granted, I don’t have a MLS team to support, but this whole wacky setup bugs me. MLS has every incentive to move to a true single table regular season, so why not do it? As a fan I’d rather have a legit competition than have manufactured “excitement” in the final week because of screwy conferences.

    1. This is why I just don’t like the whole “Conference” nature of the playoffs. The eight teams that made it this year are the eight who would have made it under a single table. What splitting the playoffs into conferences does is let teams win another trophy. (The conference one)

      Seriously though, it would take an extremely flukey season for the top two teams in a conference not to also be one of the best eight teams in the league and to qualify for the playoffs. Getting stuck in the semantics of the Conference terminology obscures the fact that the playoffs are fairly similar to other knock-out systems in the rest of the world, ours just happens after the season is done.

      So if you must, think of Columbus as the league winners, and either LA or RSL as the play-off champions. Do people give the A-League this much crap for their playoff system?

  15. It hurts me to say it but RSL deserved the win. They stepped up their game and the Fire did not. Jon Busch had to keep the Fire in the game all night and the RSL defense kept Blanco and McBride from their games.

    Hey, playoff soccer is something special and really it’s a big part of MLS. The playoffs are the 2nd season and what happens in it you never know. Enjoy it!

  16. That is why they figure it out in head to head compition ( and unlike European leagues, being able to beat the dregs of the league teams doesn’t help you win championships )

    I was hoping for Chi-Houston game, but I have never been to a World Series, piece of cr-p league Finals, or a SuperBowl, so I am very excited, that this is my first MAJOR SPORT championship.
    Yes, I said it, MAJOR SPORT.

    My Sounders will draw close to 40k next year and probably could draw more if they would open up more seats. As the money flows in, so will the quality players and so will more fans which will mean more money. Good times in MLS.

  17. Go RSL!! even though I’m a big Fire fan. Can’t stand the way the MLS announcers, especially John Harkes, grovel at the feet of Beckham and Donovan.

    LARS — have to disagree regarding buying up 2nd and 3rd level players from other countries. MLS needs to keep looking for the skilled foreign players that are just developing or have been overlooked. Two benefits–if successful, the entertainment value of MLS goes up and MLS makes mmoney off of selling rights to other more successful soccer leagues. Soccer in the US needs to be ENTERTAINING to continue to grow. Where soccer is part of the culture, heavy footed teams can survive based solely on local interest, especially where a talented premier league exists. MLS can’t.

    1. You can disagree with me all you want. The fact is, most MLS teams aren’t even competitive with Championship sides in England.

      We are effectively a third division.

    2. I’m also in disagreement with you, but for a different reason than Lars, I suspect.

      MLS was founded to develop American players. There’s almost no way to say this without sounding incredibly jingoistic, but the basic math is that every foreign player on the roster is an American that isn’t. I don’t have a problem with the current foreign player allocation rules, and I don’t have a problem with teams putting young up-and-coming foreigners/established players on the rosters as a quick way to build team quality. But I don’t want to see foreign allocations increased, since it will impact the ability of teams to sign young American talent.

      MLS isn’t perfect, and the best players shouldn’t stay there forever, but it’s a good way to build broad based support for American soccer. It’s great to see guys go abroad and succeed there, but I actually think that seeing Americans making a living playing in a domestic league will have a greater impact on convincing American athletes to play soccer and not other sports.

  18. The league still indeed young with an immature commissioner why not follow the nba conferencing format and playoff system as well. Play all playoff games on both teams homecourt in a 5 or better yet 7th game format. I like soccer I was a varsity in high school and knew the game inside out not to mention love to be there in every rsl game there is esp in playoff time which should have been played here. Bottom line is all about rsl making revenue but the fact is that this current system they have is broken mls won’t be as big as nba if they don’t do anything and change the current structure right that doesn’t make sense to the fans and to the league don’t kill the league pls

    1. That would make the playoff interminably long, and greatly increase the risk on injury to the players during the course of the post season. There’s no way the best XI of a team could play more than two games a week, so the quality of play in the post season would suffer as well. I just don’t see any way to make this happen.

  19. Iceman. That’s not the smart thing to do. If they added a second match in the Conference Finals, at least you could get Goal Aggregate and Away Goals Rule for both Conference Semis & Final, Making MLS Cup one match.

  20. Any team from salt lake
    will never get respect from me
    morons are based there
    I dint like cults
    and no I didn’t mispell it
    any cult member is a moron !!!
    Guilt by association
    to me Its real bs
    again no typo

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