Well, the wild card's are over. My preferred winner is out, but my least preferred winner is also out, you win some, you lose some. A fairly routine Seattle win, highlighted by Michael Gspurning's moment of madness catching the ball outside the box, was followed by a very very satisfying game in Houston. After all the Rob Ford related fun earlier in the day, Schadenfreude Day in Toronto was capped off very nicely as the Impact imploded, a fully deserved 3-0 loss and 3 red cards. Nelson Rivas' thuggery throughout the game earned him his red, then Andres Romero and Marco di Vaio got feisty right at the end to earn reds of their own, the only disappointing part was the ref doing the sensible thing and blowing the final whistle after a mere 25 second of injury time, when there were minutes of potential mayhem still to come. It was made even better today with twitter rumblings that Marco Schallibaum had his lineup forced upon him, and Romero and Di Vaio got 3 game suspensions to start next season. And oh, according to Grant Wahl, Nesta's going to be the next coach!
Thank you Chicago, your loss provided a more satisfactory ending to the season than any TFC fan could have dreamt of. Here's the highlight of the night for you.
All that sets up an intriguing group of games on Saturday and Sunday.
It starts off with New England Revolution vs Sporting Kansas City, not really all that much drama or sexy narrative to this one, but on the pitch it should definitely be interesting, New England's youthful attacking flair against Kansas' physicality.
That's followed by this round's marquee matchup, at least in the stands as it's a Cascadia derby, Seattle Sounders vs Portland Timbers, whoc incidentallly got 52% of the vote as to who you lot wanted to see win in the wild card post poll. Sadly the atmosphere and experience, the sound and fury of what should be another huge crowd will be let down as a marketing exercise for the league by the NFL lines all over the pitch in preparation for the next day's Seahawks game. On the pitch, is Seattle's confidence restored with a season ending tie and then a wild card win, or are they still the emotionally fragile team that went on that huge skid to wreck their supporters shield hopes. Can the Timbers take their regular season form into the playoffs, where most of them are untested? Been there done that veteran Will Johnson will have a huge role to play.
Moving on to Sunday, and again the Eastern Conference matchup takes a back seat in terms of glamour. New York are, finally, all trophied up and look to be in imperious form going into the playoffs. Does getting that monkey off their back mean an end to their disappointing recent playoff performances? Even if it does, it's not going to be easy as it's Houston who always save their best for when it really matters. Dominic Kinnear won't be on the sidelines for the first leg, suspended for leaving his technical area during the end of game handbags on Thursday night.
The weekend ends with Real Salt Lake heading to LA Galaxy for what's probably the best matchup in terms of quality on the pitch. The two time reigning champs against the most consistently good team over the last few years, Bruce Arena vs Jason Kreis, RSL's possession style against the individual talent and counter attacking thrust of the Galaxy. The most impressive part of it is that both teams have had to undergo fairly significant re-invention this season, LA introducing many younger players into their lineup while RSL lost Will Johnson, Jamison Olave and Fabian Espindola and barely missed a beat.
The second legs go on Wednesday and Thursday, before the first legs of the Conference finals go next weekend. After that there's a two week gap to the second legs and another two week gap before the final, so it's all going to fizzle out. Before that though, settle in for what should be the best 8 days of the season, and join us here to chat about and comment on the games.