Sunday, December 8, 2013

MLS Cup battle decided by wood

The MLS Cup on December 7th in Kansas City was marked by freezing temperatures and hot tempers as Sporting and RSL faced off.  The game was played with enough intensity to melt some of the ice on the field,  went through the two overtimes and then was decided in penalty kicks when RSL's Lovel Palmer took his kick and struck the crossbar at just the angle to take the ball down and away from the goal line.   Palmer, who made 34 appearances as a Portland Timber in 2011-12,  was a late entry in the match and almost kept the PK exchange alive.  

In my opinion,  the game was a close battle in most ways,  but the geometry of the goalpost played a greater than usual role in keeping RSL from the winner's circle.  At 29 minutes of play,  Robbie Findley , the former Oregon State star who bedeviled the Timbers this year,  took a shot when Sporting's keeper failed to clear the ball.  Only the post deflected the easy shot away and into Jimmy Neilsen's arms.   At 61 minutes, RSL's Beckerman took a shot that also hit the post and bounced away.   And in the seventy-second minute,  RSL's Morales hit the post on a shot Neilsen could not have stopped.   Any one of those three  shots would have taken away the overtime game and given RSL the win.   Sometimes the wood just doesn't like you.   

Two more notes about the match.   Former Timber, Lawrence Olum, played a significant role for the Sporting.   Olum played forty-four matches and scored six goals for the Timbers in 2007-8.   And former Portland goalkeeper, Josh Saunders,  appears on the RSL roster as a backup keeper.  Would you want to be backup to Nick Romando?  That's gotta be a hard position.   

For my money, the game should have been RSL's for several reasons,  not just the bad luck with frame.  The truth is that 'should have' doesn't show up anywhere in the glossary for futbol champions.