Monday, November 8, 2010

RSL Eliminated, and the BYU and Utah Recaps...

So it has been quite a while since I last wrote, but I had to focus on my GMAT studies for a bit. Now that that's over, I'm going to try and get back to writing on a more normal basis.

This weekend had some great games all over sports. The Premiership obviously started the weekend off right, and the College Football world presented it's normal quality that it does week in and week out. However, the only thing I want to talk about is the MLS. Anyone who knows anything about the MLS, knows that the playoff system is completely flawed and by looking at the matchups for the first round of the playoffs, there is an obvious problem. Even though New York was a decent team throughout the season, it could be argued that the 4 best teams were squaring off in the Western Conference and the next best 4 were squaring off in the "Eastern Conference". It really was a shame to see that Dallas and RSL would be playing in the first round. Unfortunately, things didn't go right for the boys from Salt Lake over the two legs and were eliminated Saturday night on a 3-2 aggregate score. In the first leg, RSL scored an early goal but could not hold off Dallas and a late goal gave the Texas side a 2-1 win. Arguably, the biggest talking point of the first leg was the sending off of RSL playmaker, Javier Morales. How RSL was going to adjust in the second leg to cover his absence was immense. To start the second leg, Will Johnson was able to fill in nicely after recovering from his injury. Our starting lineup looked pretty solid, but the creativity was lacking with Morales out. I felt like we could have gone with Nelson Gonzalez to play that creative role in front of the midfield. He is not as experienced as Morales, but his creativity and quickness is just as good. Ned Grabavoy had a very average game and I thought we could have benefited from having Gonzalez out there instead.

RSL started out very well and had a couple good breaks early. Dallas responded after just a few minutes and created what seemed to be the opening goal early on, however Shea was offsides for Dallas when he put it into the net. Just a few minutes later, Ferreira played a ball across to Shea and he chested it down for Dax McCarty to finish off past Rimando. After this goal, I felt it could be over unless RSL quickly turned the scoreline around. Before halftime, Dallas could have extended their 3-1 aggregate lead, but narrowly missed the goal on two different occasions. The second half was very different for RSL. They came out flying, with Espindola getting multiple chances to even up the game, however Hartman made a couple big saves for Dallas. RSL were eventually able to get a breakthrough from substitute Robbie Findley. For all the slack that I have given Findley this year, that goal was big time and helps him end the season on a positive note, in my mind. The atmosphere from the time RSL scored (80th minute) until the end of the game was absolutely unexplainable. The crowd was crazy and it was something that anyone would enjoy. RSL pushed forward looking for the series equalizing goal but it wasn't meant to be. To be fair to Dallas, they were the better side over the two legs, and as Kreis put in his postgame interview, "We played scared, wondering what would happen if we lost". Last year, in the run to the MLS Cup, we played with nothing to lose and attacked every team in our path. Being the favorite this year, it was a different position and I felt that hurt the team. It is a completely mental attitude that had to be dealt with, but the pressure of being the "team to beat" seemed to get to RSL. Although there will be no repeat MLS Cup this year, we cannot take away the absolutely wonderful season the boys gave us. Becoming the first team in MLS history to win their group in the Champions League, least goals conceded, undefeated at home, among other records that were set are just some of the highlights. More than anything else for me, the pride that I now have in my team is unbelievable. Everyone who knows me, knows about my love for Manchester United, but this year RSL took over the top spot for me. I will always love my club and I look forward to the knockout rounds of the Champions League in February.

Some other great notables were the two blowouts in the Mountain West Conference. Obviously, I am a BYU fan so it was nice to see Jake Heaps put in a performance that shows the potential that he can achieve. He had 2 TDs but could have easily had 5, with some receivers tripping up inside the 5 yard line, after making catches. It is nice to see the Cougars finally putting it all together, even the defense played well with a few takeaways and big stops early on and then keeping it consistent throughout the game. To be fair though to all BYU fans, we have to remember this was against UNLV, who is no strong team by any means, but a 55-7 victory is always something to celebrate, especially with the season we have been experiencing.

The other game that happened, and was also a blowout was the Utah-TCU game. This was hyped as "The Biggest Football to ever be played in Utah". This may or may not have been an accurate assumption, but it was by far the result that Utah fans did not want to see. As much as I would love to just rip apart Utah, the credit here has to be given to TCU. Utah had their worst game of the season, but that was more because of the superiority of the Horned Frogs. Their ability to score on offense at will, and make stops on defense when they needed it the most proved to the entire nation that they are one of the best teams in the nation. They didn't allow Utah, one of the most explosive offenses to this point, to cross the 50 yard line until about midway through the 4th quarter.

I'm not going to hate on the Utah team, because they just got beat by a better team but I am more excited about this because of the unrealistic Utah fans that I have encountered this year. Utah was ranked #5, much higher than they should have been. Prior to this game, they had the #113 ranked strength of schedule (out of 120) in the nation. Their biggest win was against the 5-5, Iowa State. Utah fans will still say that "it is still better to be 8-1 than 4-5", or "how's thats season in Provo going?" or other various knocks at BYU, but that is the nature of the rivalry. Utah is a better team than BYU. I didn't expect anything differently. However, when you play a tougher schedule (BYU's SOS is #59), you graduate one of the best QBs your program has ever seen, and you start a true freshman quarterback, you don't expect to have a great season. Utah should win this week at Notre Dame, but could have a dogfight at SDSU in a couple weeks time. BYU should cruise against Colorado State and New Mexico. After the next couple weeks and hopefully with both teams looking their best, the last installment of the MWC Holy War should be heated as ever.