Know your MLS -- five things we learned from Round 29:
But in terms of importance to U.S. Soccer and the entire domestic soccer scene, you'd surely have to top that bittersweet chart with
An emotional night, with family and friends in the stands and everybody focused on the man and his decorated 17-year pro career, came and went with a couple of near misses but no goals. McBride, from nearby Arlington Heights, Ill., left to a standing ovation from the appreciative crowd at Toyota Park.
He has 79 MLS goals and one final match to improve on that total when the Fire concludes a season of disappointment with a match at Chivas USA. But the real curtain call on a career of heavy decoration and universal respect was Saturday's final home match.
What's next for the man who meant so much to U.S. soccer supporters for so long and for so many reasons? He's not sure. It will definitely involve soccer and probably revolve around instruction, although it doesn't sound like professional coaching is in the cards. He also wants to spend more time with his wife and kids on the weekend, and that's a tall order for a pro manager or assistant. It sounds like he's leaning toward some kind of instructional role, perhaps in an academy or maybe in bigger-picture development. He wants to put all that experience, in MLS, in Germany, at Everton, at Fulham and in countless U.S. camps under three different coaches, to good use.
"The good thing about being in different places, you sort of see things done correctly and how some things are not done correctly," he said last week. "I'd love to have some input in certain areas, but I haven't had any specific offers, so we'll see where the cards fall."
In the big picture, however, there's not much else being done right in Chicago. In fact, the Fire have become the
This is the team, of course, that fired its coach,
Now it just looks ridiculous. Going into its final match of 2010, de los Cobos' bunch has 33 points, a minus-4 goal difference and for all practical purposes has been out of the playoff picture for weeks. In fact, three wins over the last four games has spruced up Chicago's record, making the campaign look better than it really was.
The whole thing has been destabilized by questionable player acquisitions, a mishmash of formation changes, a peculiar player rotation and a coach who may or may not return to his old job in El Salvador. This wasn't supposed to be such a rebuilding year, was it?
"I would classify it as a season of learning for me, of adaptation and of familiarity with the league," de los Cobos told MLSSoccer.com last week. "Logically, [the season] has served me well. The results have not been what we would have liked, but they are logical if you take into consideration that this team is different from last year's."
Yeah, it is. But did it need to be? This is a side with two designated players, after all, although both
Mercurial Dutch striker
And if he does? Perhaps the Fire could rehire Hamlett? They could certainly do worse. And besides, would such a wacky turn of events really surprise you for the organization whose officials are challenging Toronto's for title of Chief Engineers on the Wacky Choice Express?
It's really a matter of competitive fairness. There are still Supporters Shield implications; Real Salt Lake's win Saturday and the Galaxy's slightly surprising loss means the league's award for most regular-season points will come down to the final week.
There are also playoff-positioning implications. The eight playoff teams could move within the order, which means all could potentially influence their first-round opponent.
Simultaneous kickoffs are not only the fairest method, but they also arrange the exciting double dip of match watching while also scoreboard watching.
Take the Supporters Shield. By the time Los Angeles plays Dallas on Sunday, the Galaxy players could already know that they have the Supporter Shield secure. That will happen if Real Salt Lake loses at Colorado, which certainly could happen given the Rapids' good form. And what if that does happen? Galaxy coach
There are other examples, but you get the idea.
In earlier years, TV contract concerns and stadium availability issues meant simultaneous, final-day kickoffs were less plausible. Now MLS has greater leverage with the networks, and stadium issues are only problematic in a couple of places.
Time for a change here, MLS.
With all playoff positions secure, one of the real talking points of Round 29 came out of Toronto, where Columbus Crew goalkeeper
Columbus trailed late Saturday in Toronto, so Hesmer came forward and finished a corner kick from close range, assisted by the home team's inability to clear the danger or close quickly on the goalkeeper-turned-shooter.
Here's the Conway connection: Conway would have been in goal for Toronto and could possibly have been in place to make the save. But he was ejected in the second half along with Crew forward
So in came backup goalkeeper
Conway was previously the starter at New York. In 2008, he was handed a 10-game suspension for using a banned substance. In came rookie
Hesmer said he looked toward the Crew bench for approval to bolt forward. Amid a chorus of "No's," he thought he saw one finger pointing forward. So, "Permission granted!" he thought, and up he went.
This is surely the most wide-open race in years. Here's how the list stacks up going into Round 30: