The 2010 MLS Cup Final is over. While congratulations need to go to Colorado Rapids for winning the final, the lasting memories for me from this final are (1) some world-class saves by Kevin Hartman and Matt Pickens, (2) some awful refereeing decisions by Baldomero Toledo, and (3), worst of all, the embarrassing number of empty seats at BMO Field after the second half kicked off.
While it was a very evenly balanced game, this one will not go down in history as one of the most exciting. There were moments of excitement but the match was played, for the most part, in midfield with both teams failing to keep possession of the ball for long periods of time before the opposition picked up a loose ball or a stray pass. If only the entire 120 minutes of the game were more like the last few minutes of extra time, which saw a flurry of near misses from FC Dallas that went agonizingly wide. Instead, the MLS Cup Final was decided by a fluke own goal. Out of the three goals scored, the only one that was class was FC Dallas’s first and only goal after a sublime cross from Marvin Chavez was beautifully hit into the net by David Ferreira.
As for Baldomero Toledo, the number of poor decisions the referee made were far too many to mention. He let the game on for far too long without stamping his authority on it, even with players lashing out with wild kicks, several pushing matches and other unsavory incidents. The most obvious mistake by Toledo was his failure to red card Jair Benitez for a blatant kick out at Conor Casey in the box which was then followed by a trip on Casey. Bizarrely no red card was issued and no penalty was awarded.
Meanwhile, if you think Toronto FC will host a MLS Cup Final again in the near future, you can say goodbye to those dreams. Many Toronto FC supporters reportedly staged a mass walkout at half-time in protest against the MLS Cup Final being counted as one of their season ticket package. That decision was embarrassing for Major League Soccer, but also I believe will end up hurting Toronto supporters more than helping them.
Unfortunately the list of items that MLS commissioner Don Garber needs to fix in Major League Soccer is beginning to resemble a laundry list. The poor officiating and disgruntled Toronto FC supporters need to be high on the list. Also I believe that MLS’s decision to increase the number of playoff spots from 8 to 10 is a mistake. The league, despite growing in size next year, should have kept the number playoff spots at 8, to make the regular season more meaningful and to make the playoff spots a reward, not an entitlement.