Know your MLS -- five things we learned from Round 30, with playoffs set to begin Thursday:
"The good news is that we have an enormously creative and together group of owners, so we will have an opportunity to revisit the whole playoff system and pairings and the way we go about it all," Checketts said by phone Friday.
While he hasn't heard much sentiment for expanding the playoff field (from eight, where it's been since MLS Day 1), he said everything else could be up for discussion.
One element surely to be examined is the format change that takes place between the first and second rounds; the opening matchup is a home-and-away, aggregate goals series while the conference final is a one-match, winner-take-all. Should the conference final be home-and-away as well? That could further undermine the importance of the regular season (subtracting some of the advantage of finishing higher in the standings), and that's something nobody likes to see. Plus, it would add another week to a season that already stretches eight months.
"The season is already so long, so you're getting into some really cold weather in many of these cities," Checketts said. "So it's complicated to make it any longer. We're already playing to Thanksgiving now, and I can't imagine going past that."
And there are other considerations, such as the difficulties of selling a midweek playoff match on short notice. Just ask Colorado. The Rapids are one of the weaker teams in MLS attendance as it is, and they get just four days to sell Thursday's match against Columbus. Don't be surprised to see empty seats on national TV in a match that opens the MLS playoffs -- and you can bet that will be mentioned during those upcoming discussions, too.
The San Jose man punctuated his late-season assault on league awards by claiming MLS' Golden Boot with four goals over the final week. He hit for three in midweek against Chivas USA and then finished another wonderful arrangement from teammate
The hat trick against Chivas USA came over just 50 minutes as "Wondo" had been given the night off -- but had to report for duty because of injury. The career backup -- he had just 11 career starts and only four goals over five MLS seasons coming into 2010 -- finished with a stunning 18 goals. That left him one ahead of the Galaxy's
Another factor in Wondolowski's implausible rise is that most of his goals came out of the midfield.
As for Wondolowski and his "you couldn't write this stuff into a Hollywood script" season, another individual award could still punctuate all this: a league MVP. He would be the most unlikely choice yet to claim the top individual honor.
The Rapids have looked extra crisp lately, mostly in good form over September and October.
Everything was looking tight and right at Dicks Sports Goods Park on Saturday, when
Then it all unraveled spectacularly for Colorado. Goalkeeper
Then came the equalizer. Kudos to referee
Back to Colorado: Mullan's combativeness and famous desire are always commendable and usually serve his teams well, but he does perennially walk a fine line regarding the laws of the game. In this case he gambled and lost, clearly pulling down RSL's
In L.A., Arena pushed on with plans to field his first-choice lineup. (The Galaxy would win 2-1 to finish with the best record.) Meanwhile, Smith was left to make sense of it all.
"I couldn't have asked for any more from any of those players up until the last three minutes, which was a farce," the Rapids' coach said. "I'm delighted with how they played; I'm just disappointed with the farcical ending."
By dropping the points, the Rapids finished fifth in the West. In the convoluted playoff structure, that means they face the second seed from the East, Columbus.
Make no mistake, this is not the team that won an MLS Cup two years ago, even if so many of the names are the same. Veterans
Mostly, the Crew just didn't navigate a ridiculously busy stretch as well as Seattle or Real Salt Lake, two sides that did OK despite a calendar every bit as crowded as Columbus'. The Crew were just 6-6-4 in all competitions to finish.
Columbus is in the playoffs, and good for coach
On the other hand, the Crew have ample playoff experience. The Rapids fall to the other end of the spectrum, with no postseason appearances since 2006. So, don't be the house on the Rapids just yet -- maybe only a couple of rooms.
Former D.C. standouts
Somewhat lost in all this hubbub is another retirement (besides McBride) from that breakthrough U.S. 2002 World Cup side: L.A.'s
The foursome of first-round playoff series are set. Here is how they rank in buzz factor: