When the latest new playoff format was announced, with 2 more teams qualifying and an extra round for the now 4 wild card teams, there was much eye rolling from the purists out there. Too many teams would qualify, thus devaluing the league, hell even TFC might have a chance now, and there was all sorts of potential for oddities like 7 western teams qualifying, or Eastern teams representing the West and vice versa.
Well, TFC obviously didn't make it, 5 teams from the East did manage to make it, so as long as you don't pay too much attention to the points totals, it almost looks respectable. Poor FC Dallas though even though they beat everyone in the East, and finished 4th overall had to go to the wild card round, and play off against the New York Red Bulls.
They played on Wednesday night, and it all went wrong for them. Despite a curious lineup from Hans Backe (only 5 subs? Is McCarty on the right wing? hahaha, said twitter) and a strong start from Dallas, they couldn't break through. After coming on as a sub (oh how twitter laughed at Hans Backe) Mehdi Ballouchy almost immediately set up Joel Lindpere for the opening goal. Dallas never really looked like equalising, and Thierry Henry knocked in a second in the last seconds of injury time, before another obnoxious crowd shushing celebration similar to that we saw in Toronto a few weeks back. Thus was completed an epic end of season meltdown from Dallas, who were looking very good in both league and CCL before losing 6 of their last 8 league games, getting only 1 point from their final 4 CCL games and now crashing out in the wild card round.
It also of course means that New York advanced to the Western side of the draw, and will be playing home and away against LA Galaxy. Henry and Marquez against Beckham, Keane and Donovan. Don Garber might be happy about that, It's difficult to say.
With New York safely ensconced in the West, Colorado Rapids took on Columbus Crew on Thursday hoping to take advantage of the chance to once again play in the weaker Eastern side of things. It was cold in Colorado, which meant the crowd was as quiet and uninspired as the one in Dallas the night before, and the game matched it really. Tony Tchani made his Crew debut, playing the full 90 minutes, Omar Cummings got a goal for Colorado, and that's how it finished, with the Rapids moving on to play Sporting Kansas City in the next round.
I guess the new format served it's purpose, it gave a few extra teams something to play for up until the last weekend of the season, and without those two extra places, the glamour boys of New York wouldn't have even qualified. Feel sorry though for Dallas fans, "we're still in the playoffs" they chanted as their CCL implosion against TFC winded down. They got an extra 4 days out of it, 4th overall doesn't get what it used to I suppose.
So, New York in the West, Colorado in the East, two fairly dull games, and attendances of 10,017 and 7,803. Not exactly a ragingly successful and dramatic extra round was it? The two legged quarter finals start on saturday, let's hope we get something a bit more exciting there.