>Thursday Lunch: Watch the MLS Playoffs, Please

Posted: October 28, 2010 in mls
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By Nick Gallaudet

 

I know, it’s almost blasphemous for me. A lifelong baseball fan asking you to watch Major League Soccer’s playoffs when the World Series just started, but please hear me out. First, let me clear a couple things up. I have never seen an MLS game. I hated soccer until recently, but then I made friends with people who live and breathe the sport, so I gave it a chance during the 2010 World Cup. I used to talk about how nothing happened, and that it’s a waste of time watching a sport where it routinely ended in ties. I was used to games ending with a winner, and I think that’s why, like a lot of Americans, I got sucked into the World Cup. If you’re reading this right now, you probably watched Landon Donovan show Algeria that Karim Matmour had nothing on us Americans. If you haven’t seen the Youtube clip of all the barroom reactions to his goal, watch it now (and note Davis’ cameo, starring some Sack Lunch writers). Soccer had legs in America after the World Cup, despite America’s exit in the Round of 16. The bottom line is that I learned something from the World Cup: Soccer can be exciting…and octopi are psychic.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed the World Cup, so I thought it was about time for me to see what this worldwide obsession was all about. I tried so hard to follow the English Premier League this year, since it’s widely regarded as the best professional league in the world, but I just couldn’t for multiple reasons. The games happen at like 4 in the morning, they’re rarely televised in the U.S., only four teams ever have a chance to win, and there are no playoffs, so there are a lot of seemingly meaningless games. On top of all that, I had no allegiance to any of the teams. My interest quickly faded, especially with football starting up.

 

I had pretty much given up on my attempt to become a soccer fan, except I made a promise to fellow Sack Luncher, Evan that I would watch the MLS Playoffs. I was hesitant at first, because I really didn’t care about the EPL and thought MLS was a minor league version, but I am in no way qualified to decide how one soccer league stacks up against another. Plus, the four things that kept me from watching the EPL didn’t apply to MLS. All of the playoff games will be available to watch, eight teams are in the playoffs, and anything can happen in the playoffs. There are obviously playoffs, and all of these games will be important, so I decided to give it a try.

 

I’m actually pretty excited for them, even though I don’t have a team, hopefully that will work itself out as the playoffs unfold. Evan says the soccer is usually pretty good, and there are always fights, drama, and ridiculous comebacks, so without further ado, I would like to present to you, the Soccer Neophyte’s Guide to Watching Playoff Soccer (SNGWPS) and invite you to join me. I feel as though I need to explain to you how the playoffs work, though, since soccer apparently can’t do anything normally (but I have to be honest, I do like the way they seed the teams).

 

First, eight of the 16 teams make the playoffs, the first two teams from both the Eastern and Western Conference, and then the next four teams, regardless of conference, and it just so happens that those four teams are all from the Western Conference this year. The first round of games is a home-away series (each game is called a leg), and the team with the highest goal differential advances to the next round, and if it’s tied after both legs, it goes to overtime and then PKs. In the next round (stupidly called Conference Finals, since it’s possible that all four teams could be from the Western Conference), as well as the MLS Cup Final, it’s a one game, winner-take-all showdown, which I like because I think it creates a more exciting game.

 

I truly have no idea what to expect from an MLS game. I don’t know what the skill level will be like, I don’t know if I’ll even be able to tell the difference between these guys and national teams, but I don’t really care. I enjoy watching people play their hearts out for a title, and if the World Cup was any indication, it gets pretty exciting when both teams want something that bad, plus the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy is kind of cool looking, so join me as us soccer newcomers dip our toes a little farther into the pool of soccer.

Now that we got all that out of the way, it’s time for some expert analysis. These are your eight playoff teams: NY Red Bulls, Columbus Crew, LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, FC Dallas, Seattle Sounders FC, Colorado Rapids, and San Jose Earthquakes. The Galaxy won’t win, because Cobi Jones retired in 2007, and Landon Donovan is no Cobi Jones. The Crew won’t win because their team name stinks, FC Dallas won’t win because Tony Romo broke his collarbone, and the Red Bulls won’t win because the French tried to take over our colonies in the Seven Years War, and we haven’t forgotten, Thierry, plus we don’t allow handballs in America. We all know the winner will be the Real Salt Lake, because they linked the Sack Lunch to their official blog, so obviously they know a winner when they see one.

 

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