Alright everyone, enough with the moping. The US didn’t get the 2022 World Cup. Let’s move on.
In case you forgot, MLS is just fine. More than fine. We just wrapped one of the more memorable seasons in league history, including crowning a new champion after an MLS Cup Playoffs filled with unprecedented quality. We had a summer break for the first time to watch seriously thrilling dramatics at the World Cup. And the US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League were arguably the most entertaining we’ve ever seen.
So I’m not crying. I’m remembering what we saw over the past nine months. It wasn’t always a victorious, triumphant moment that caught my eye – there were a lot of ends of eras in 2010. And those are just as memorable. What follows isn’t a best-of list. Here’s my nine favorite underrated moments of the year. Nine's such an underrated number, don't you think?
A nation of millions
We couldn’t possibly have another sellout at Qwest Field for a second consecutive First Kick, could we? Yes we could. And we did. An army of 36,241 filled the Sounders’ home venue (above) to watch their team rattle off another opening-day win, 2-0 over Philadelphia.
Those same fans helped their team weather some midseason doldrums to finish strong, with a second consecutive MLS Cup Playoffs appearance and back-to-back US Open Cup triumphs. And oh yeah, top 1 million in home attendance in just two seasons. Well done, Emerald City.
Always a McBridesmaid...
It became commonplace to see Brian McBride coming off the bench for the Fire this season – not exactly the fairytale ending for the greatest striker in American history. But maybe McBride saw the writing on the wall on April 17 at RFK Stadium.
Carlos de los Cobos benched him in favor of Collins John. And though McBride scored the icer in a 2-0 win over D.C. United – off a header, of course – he never again was a regular starter in Chicago’s lineup as de los Cobos tinkered the rest of the way. This may have been the moment McBride started to see his future laid out in front of him.
[inline_node:322612]Juan to watch
Conor Chinn was the star of the night as the rookie’s brace led the Red Bulls over Philadelphia in Open Cup play on April 27. But history may tell a different story. Quietly, a young 17-year-old Juan Agudelo made his pro debut, too. Six months later, The Kid was starting next to Juan Pablo Angel in a playoff game, then scored a goal in his first US cap last month. Reminds me a little of another RBNY kid who made his pro debut in an Open Cup game four years ago – Josmer something-or-other…
Chivas’ changing of the stripes
The game wasn’t much to write home about – a last-gasp 1-0 loss at Columbus in May. But it was the last time Sacha Kljestan and Jonathan Bornstein ever shared a pitch in Red and White shirts. A week later, Bornstein was off to US national-team camp. By the time he returned, Kljestan had left for Anderlecht and Jonny B’s departure was announced soon after.
Since being drafted by Chivas USA in 2006, the duo had become the young faces of the club. This quiet defeat marked an equally quiet end of an era.
Bring the boys back home
There were fireworks after the game at the Home Depot Center, but they paled next to the pyrotechnics in the game itself. The Galaxy punched holes through Seattle on July 4, winning 3-1 in front of a standing-room only crowd of 27,000. And all of them went wild every time Landon Donovan touched the ball, a moving show of appreciation for the national-team star, who was playing his first game since his heroic turn in South Africa.
Interestingly, it was his US teammate, Edson Buddle, who actually scored a goal that night. He got a nice ovation, too – but it was clear who the LA crowd favored after the World Cup.
KC’s sporting chance
OK, forgive the rebrand pun. But what’s more thrilling than watching the highlights of the former Wizards’ amazing comeback on Houston on Sept. 22 at CommunityAmerica Ballpark?
Kansas City rattled off three straight second-half goals – including Josh Wolff’s winner deep into stoppage time – to turn a 3-1 deficit into an incredible 4-3 victory. For a couple weeks, at least, the Wizards’ playoff hopes were still very much alive. And Davy Arnaud’s rugby-style takedown of Wolff is still hilarious.
[inline_node:323426]It’s Wondo’s World – we’re all living in it
Before this one at home against Chivas USA, Chris Wondolowski was a great story line to 2010, somehow keeping pace in the race for the Golden Boot. By the time the final whistle had blown, the San Jose attacker had spectacularly caught up to Edson Buddle with his 15th, 16th and 17th goals of the season.
A hat trick – as a substitute. One goal was poached, one was on a PK and one was a clinical finish. All told, the night was a microcosm of Wondo’s entire season. The next week, the lifelong substitute clinched the Boot.
Bald is beautiful
Conor Casey rarely scores a pretty goal. And that’s just fine for the big Rapids striker. His most important goal of his MLS career was perhaps the ugliest – the equalizer that put Colorado on the board in MLS Cup.
Jamie Smith’s cross in the 57th minute was swallowed in a three-man diving scrum of Casey and FC Dallas’ Kevin Hartman and Jair Benitez. With the ball still loose, a prone Casey had the awareness to throw his right foot at it, and the Rapids had their goal. The Beautiful Game it was not. But goals like that were what carried Colorado to their first-ever title.
Downpour in el DF
I’m hard-pressed to think of a more entertaining soccer game involving an MLS team in the last three years that was as entertaining as this CONCACAF Champions League group-stage match in October. In a torrential downpour, Alvaro Saborio and Real Salt Lake were ticks away from doing the unthinkable: finally beating a Mexican team on Mexican soil.
Their 3-1 lead at Estadio Azul didn’t stand – Cruz Azul scored four times in the final 15 minutes, even negating Will Johnson’s would-be point-saver in extra time. It just wasn’t to be. But this gorgeous display of chaos in some of the worst conditions you’ve ever seen made this an instant classic. And in the long run, it made RSL stronger.
Raise your hand if you believe Garth Lagerwey’s claim that the CCL crown may be bigger than MLS Cup. Yeah, my hand is up, too. I can’t wait for spring.
Jonah Freedman is the managing editor of MLSsoccer.com. “The Throw-In” appears every Thursday.
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