It’s a running gag in Major League Soccer circles: in this league, anything can happen. The league’s stringent single-entity model in which clubs can only spend above their discretionary budgets via the three alloted designated player slots or via the mysterious ‘allocation’ option is supposed to mean anyone can make it in America.
And yet, for the second year running, the LA Galaxy will face Houston Dynamo in the MLS Cup final. Not without controversy; Eddie Johnson’s early goal was incorrectly ruled offside in Seattle’s ultimately fruitless 2-1 win over LA in their second leg conference final in which the Galaxy held a 3-0 advantage from the first game.
Still, there was no excusing Seattle’s limp performance in the first leg, nor could one simply explain away LA’s dominance in attack. Over two legs, it was likely the fair result, as has LA’s march to the final in Carson California.
As for Houston, though out-passed and out-possessed by DC United by good margins at RFK (Maicon Santos was particularly effective for DC, in keeping with the former Toronto FC players made good paradigm), held on to a crucial 1-1 draw, which saw them go through on a 3-1 first leg advantage.
And so here we are: an LA team regarded as the crown jewel of the league, and a Houston team that finished 9th overall, two positions lower than in 2011. Both owned by AEG. Whether it’s the phenomenon of “playoff teams” or that wily catch-all—experience—the MLS finals have been remarkably consistent over the years, with LA (8 appearances), DC United (5), New England (4) and Houston (4) all veterans of the cup match.
Perhaps it’s time we dumped the parity narrative.
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Thanks to Alima Hotakie for compiling today’s links.