Monday Lunch: The Legend of Keyser Söze

Posted: April 11, 2011 in mls
Tags: , , , , , , ,

By Evan Ream

After recently re-reading The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons (a must read for any sports fan), I studied his Keyser Söze chapter closely. In this chapter, Simmons chooses the ten best teams of all time (number one was the 86 Celtics) in the NBA. Each of these teams were great because they could and would go “Keyser Söze” on opponents; not just beat them, but also humiliating them in the process. I believe we are seeing the first ever “Keyser Söze” team in MLS this year: Real Salt Lake.

MLS has a very short history and thus very few dominating teams. For me to claim that we are seeing the first “Keyser Söze” team this year, we must first look back at each previous year.

1996:MLS Cup Champion DC United (16-16, 46 points)

No dominating teams here as the championship team actually had a losing record (one of their wins was a shootout win), and the best team (Tampa Bay) still had 12 losses. DC also won the Open Cup on penalties against Dallas but this was simply a team that got hot at the right time, not a dominating team.

1997:MLS Cup Champion DC United (21-11, 55 points)

Still not a dominating team as DC failed to retain their Open Cup and there was another 21-11 team. Furthermore, they allowed 53 goals.

1998:MLS Cup Champion Chicago Fire (20-12, 56 points)

Chicago did the double as an expansion team, but LA finished with 68 points and 85 goals and were the best team that year. Chicago failed to be amazing in the regular season and LA failed to be amazing in the playoffs/Open Cup. Still no dominating teams.

1999:MLS Cup Champion DC United (23-9, 57 points)

DC are the first team to claim to be a dominating team as the first champion to also win the Supporter’s Shield, but they only finished 3 points ahead of the Galaxy in the regular season and had an amazing six shootout wins. This was not a dominating team.

2000:MLS Cup Champion Kansas City Wizards (16-7-9, 57 points)

They won the Supporter’s Shield and MLS Cup, but did both by the narrowest of margins. This team was definitely not a dominating team.

2001:MLS Cup Champion San Jose Earthquakes (13-7-6, 45 points)

This was the worst of the champions so far. They won with a crazy playoff run and beat LA in the final in a really close game. This team was not dominant.

2002-2004:The league is incredibly diluted and 80% of the teams make the playoffs!

2005:LA wins despite being .500!!!!!!!

2006-2007:Houston wins back to back despite never having great regular seasons!!!!!!!!!!!!

2008:MLS Cup Champions Columbus Crew (17-7-6, 57 points)

Finally, a worthy champion. This team won the Supporter’s Shield by 6 points and absolutely trashed teams in the playoffs. Still, they didn’t top 60 points, and they relied too much on Guillermo Barros Schelotto and his free kicks, often not having a plan B as every great team needs. This team wasn’t as good as everyone thinks as they lost their title defense in the first round next year to a sub .500 team.

2009:Aforementioned sub .500 team wins the Cup

2010: Colorado, the 7thseed, wins the Cup

Okay so now that we have established that there are no dominating teams, let’s look at what RSL has done this year through 7 competitive games.

February 22nd, CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinals Leg 1

Real Salt Lake 0 Columbus Crew 0

RSL, a possession oriented team, plays to a scoreless draw with Columbus as they play nearly the entire second half a man down on a terrible field that had been snowed on earlier in the day.

March 1st, CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinals Leg 2

Real Salt Lake 4Columbus Crew 1

RSL dominates the possession the whole game, taking an early 2-goal lead. Columbus gets a goal back before Javier Morales puts the game away and Andy Williams scores one in stoppage time as RSL is still trying to score until the end of the game.

March 15th, CONCACAF Champions League Semifinals Leg 1

Real Salt Lake 2Saprissa 0

RSL dominates the best team from Costa Rica at home and has a third goal disallowed on a terrible call.

March 19th, MLS Week 1

Real Salt Lake 1San Jose Earthquakes 0

RSL gets a tad bit lucky and steals an away win in terrible weather on a Kyle Beckerman wonder strike. San Jose made the playoffs last year and RSL beat them in their opener despite having a midweek game.

March 26th, MLS Week 2

Real Salt Lake 4LA Galaxy 1

RSL scores their second 4-1 result of the season in their home opener. LA is missing Landon Donovan, but still has one of the best defenses in the league as well as David Beckham and Juan Pablo Angel. RSL is missing Alvaro Saborio (their top scorer last year) and Will Johnson (starting outside midfielder) and they still jump to a 4-0 lead before LA get a consolation goal.

April 5th, CONCACAF Champions League Semifinals Leg 2

Real Salt Lake 1Saprissa 2

RSL lose their first game of the season, though it feels like a win because they advance in the series 3-2 on aggregate. RSL get a lot of the possession in this game and have most of the scoring opportunities. It is 1-1 late until Saprissa gets a consolation goal on a penalty. Getting a result in Costa Rica is something that MLS teams rarely do and RSL did it easily.

April 9th, MLS Week 4 (RSL had Week 3 off)

Real Salt Lake 2 New England Revolution 0

RSL start a lineup that looks like this:

Arturo Alvarez          Paulo Jr.

Will Johnson          Jean Alexandre          Collen Warner          Ned Grabavoy

Tony Beltran          Rauwshan McKenzie          Chris Schuler          Robbie Russell

Kyle Reynish

Of course RSL beats a previously unbeaten team… on the road… missing 9 starters. If that isn’t the definition of “Keyser Söze” I don’t know what is. No team in MLS history is winning that game missing that many starters.

To recap: RSL is 5-1-1 in 7 games (3-0-0 with 9 points in MLS), in the CONCACAF Champions League Final. In their 7 games, their only loss was away in a game they didn’t need to win. They have scored 14 goals against 4 allowed. Four different players have scored multiple goals for them. They have beaten two playoff teams already. They have used 23 different players in their 7 games.

There are certainly many games left to play, but I fully expect this team now to win the CONCACAF Champions League, the Supporter’s Shield, and MLS Cup; they have the depth to do it. This team could and should be the first team in MLS history to win a treble and thus the first “Keyser Söze” team in MLS.

Unbeaten Teams Remaining:

Real Salt Lake

Golden Boot Watch (My pick in Bold)

Player                          GP      G      A

1. Charlie Davies             3        4       0

2. Camilo                        5        3       1

3. Teal Bunbury              2        3        0

4. Eric Hassli                 3        3        0

Diego Chaves             3        3        0

51. Alvaro Saborio       1        0         0

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