MLS Cup: 120+ Minutes, PKs & Mr. Findley

It may not have been the best display of soccer over the course of 120+ minutes, but it had its moments. The counter-attack that put the Galaxy on top 1-0 was pure class as Beckham slotted a great ball to a streaking Donovan who lifted a perfect cross to the back post and an on-rushing Mike Magee.

In the end, Real Salt Lake, the better and more fit team, took home the MLS Cup in a dramatic penalty shoot-out (5-4) after overtime concluded with score still knotted at 1-1. Again, it was RSL keeper Nick Rimando coming up big in another penalty shootout in a performance that earned him the MLS Cup MVP.

Rimando cemented his legend as some sort of PK-saving savant in the Cup.

Almost as surprising as Real Salt Lake winning the MLS Cup was the penalty kick that Landon Donovan sailed over the cross-bar in the shoot-out. Ultimately, Lando’s miss wasn’t the difference as Galaxy (back-up) GK Josh Saunders’ brilliant stop on the try by RSL’s Andy Williams pushed the shootout into sudden death. Two rounds later, Robbie Russell banged home the winner after Cup MVP Rimando stopped Edson Buddle’s attempt and the RSL championship dog-pile commenced on the penalty spot.

For all the “new” ESPN technology the best innovation (at least I haven’t noticed it before) was the microphone placed in the goal that picked up the sweet sound of the ball hitting the netting during the PKs.

Major storylines coming out of the game will be the big injuries — Ricketts, Gonzalez, Morales, Johnson — the (fake) turf that was noticeably slick and the war of attrition down the stretch in extra time.  Also, TSG expects that sometime tomorrow morning MLS and ESPN will finally stop talking about the Seattle soccer faithful and the success of the Sounders, although 46,011 fans in attendance was impressive.

Up next for a tryout at striker for the USMNT?

TSG was most interested in tracking RSL and USMNT-hopeful striker Robbie Findley…and he did not disappoint. Findley’s patience, speed and play-making ability were all on display. Perhaps most impressive were his recognition and ability to hold the ball to maximize the opportunity and his sustained effort whistle-to-whistle.

Though it would have been nice to see more of his chances put on-frame, Findley was johnny-on-the-spot to bury home the equalizer in the 64th minute and generally wrecked havoc all over the Galaxy backline.

Any excitement about the speedy striker needs to be tempered by the overall quality of MLS. Consider that one of the guys distributing the through-balls for Findley, mid-fielder Kyle Beckerman, is an MLS All-Star, but struggles on the international stage.

It’s clear that Findley is a difference-maker in the MLS, but until he gets some run with the big boys we won’t know how his speed and skill-level translates to the international level and “gel” with the USMNT. That being said, it may not have been a bad thing that Findley missed the recent round of USMNT friendlies as service to the strikers was poor at best and the run to the title gave Findley some valuable experience in high-pressure matches.

Robbie Findley may not be the answer for the USMNT in South Africa, but USMNT fans should look forward to watching Bob-O explore the possibility in the coming months.

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34 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mark T on 2009/11/22 at 11:31 PM

    Here’s the shootout:

    Reply

  2. Posted by Antonio H. on 2009/11/22 at 11:47 PM

    Rimando is 5’9″. . . .

    Reply

    • Posted by Mark T on 2009/11/22 at 11:49 PM

      What am I missing here, Antonio?

      Reply

    • Posted by kaya on 2009/11/23 at 1:19 AM

      Wow. He’s like the Spud Webb of goalies.

      Reply

    • Posted by Antonio H. on 2009/11/23 at 7:56 PM

      my point exactly

      Reply

      • Posted by kaya on 2009/11/25 at 5:57 PM

        Except that Rimando is 2-3″ taller than Spud Webb and the average height in the NBA greater than that of probably almost any GK.
        I know, I’m being a smart ass. I knew what your point was, and 5′-9″ (or his bio’s 5′-10″) is quite short for a goalie. Jedi mind tricks can compensate for many things.

        Reply

  3. Posted by kaya on 2009/11/23 at 1:27 AM

    Btw, I still don’t see what the big deal is about Beckerman, even in the MLS.
    I looked for video evidence and saw something ostensibly related to Braveheart… didn’t knock my socks off. He always looks like he’s working his butt off, but maybe it’s because it isn’t easy dragging around an extra 20 lbs on your head.
    I didn’t see a lot of Findley by the time I tuned in… I thought Clint Mathis was very nice.
    He doesn’t spend a lot of energy, but he always seemed to make a pass that created space. But I guess he’s one of those examples of “youth being wasted on the young”, huh?

    Reply

    • Posted by Mark T on 2009/11/23 at 7:42 AM

      Mathis was a like a poor man’s Blanco last night.

      Reply

      • Posted by kaya on 2009/11/23 at 10:32 AM

        Actually, that’s what he reminded me of. Granted, I only did see the last 30 minutes of the game, a lot of his passes seemed to elude his teammates… which could’ve been their fatigue, but I only saw good touches from him and a good shot on goal.

        Reply

  4. Posted by Timmy on 2009/11/23 at 7:50 AM

    I was disappointed the game was played on artificial turf. I give big thumbs down to MLS for making that decision. It causes everything to be played to the feet and the ball bounces too much/high. It is a different game on artificial turf, and as a former player, I always despised playing on it. When Barca played a game at that stadium during the summer, was that game played on turf or grass?

    Reply

  5. Posted by Mark T on 2009/11/23 at 8:00 AM

    The turf was certainly a disappointment, but MLS was all-about pimping Seattle so they over-looked that “minor detail”. I watched the Barca game and believe it was on turf as well.

    In addition to the players slipping, you saw a lot of first touches get away from players. Not all of that can be blamed on the turf, but it looked like it had an effect.

    Reply

    • Posted by Mark T on 2009/11/23 at 9:04 AM

      I think the players should take this Don Garber quote to the next round of CBA negotiating:

      “We don’t really have much of a choice here. It’s fair to say this is a pretty good place to host the MLS Cup. If the alternative was not doing it here and playing on grass [elsewhere] or playing it here on artificial surface, I think all of us would agree that it should be here.”

      In the interest of player safety and better quality play, I respectfully disagree.

      Reply

    • Posted by Timmy on 2009/11/23 at 9:09 AM

      I just watched the highlights of the Barca game played in Seattle and they played the game at the same stadium on NATURAL GRASS. I guess the next question would be WTF?

      Reply

      • Posted by Mark T on 2009/11/23 at 9:14 AM

        Natural grass was probably the only way Barca would agree to the game.

        Reply

      • Posted by Matthew N on 2009/11/23 at 9:18 AM

        Yeah, Seattle shelled out a couple hundred grand for a grass pitch that they only put on for a couple of days. They don’t own that stadium so they had to take it right back off after the game :(

        Reply

        • Posted by Timmy on 2009/11/23 at 9:27 AM

          The natural grass surface should have been a requirement for Seattle to host the game.

          Reply

  6. Posted by Matthew N on 2009/11/23 at 8:58 AM

    A few thoughts:

    -Like others have said, I can’t believe they play the cup final on turf. I can’t believe they allow teams to have turf fields, but I guess until every squad has their own stadium, it is something we will have to live with. I also think it is BS that a first year expansion team gets to play host to the MLS Cup, regardless of whether they can put more fans in seats.

    -I enjoyed this game and I will watch more MLS next year because of it. While some players are just god awful, there are a lot of skilled players who can, on occassion, move the ball quite well.

    -Ricketts leaving the game really hurt LA, especially when it went to PKs. One has to wonder what would have happened if 1) Ricketts stayed in/didn’t get hurt, or 2) the MLS’s salary cap allowed teams to sign good backups. According to a few things I’ve read, this backup goalie wasn’t even any good at the USL level (though he made a couple big saves in the shootout)

    -It is easy to blame Donovan, but they wouldn’t be in that position without him. With that being said, he has to at least put that on frame. Bonehead play of the year.

    -Clint Mathis still has it. He might have lost one… two… well, maybe like four or five steps, but he still has excellent ball skills. Beckerman wasn’t impressive. People rave about him but I still haven’t seen anything that impressive out of him (at least when I have watched RSL, which is not often).

    -Dear ESPN, we don’t need to see the score of every football/basketball score 100 times during a soccer game. In case you guys haven’t heard, there is a place called the Internet where you can get any score you want anytime. Also in case you haven’t heard, you can even access this newfangled “Internets” on your phone, so you don’t even have to get up from the TV.

    -Final thought: If MLS can increase the salary cap to get rid of some of these crap players and raise the quality level just a smidge, this league will get a lot more entertaining really fast. I can’t help but feel like they are on the brink after watching this great cup final.

    Reply

    • Posted by Matthew N on 2009/11/23 at 9:00 AM

      Oh and after seeing Robbie Findley play, I am puzzled why he hasn’t got time with the Nats yet. He blew the doors off the LA defence pretty much anytime he wanted to… it is unfortunate he wasn’t getting better service. His speed looked insane, but I don’t imagine Berhalter and company are the fastest lads these days. Either way, he is definitely worth a shot.

      Reply

      • Posted by Matthew N on 2009/11/23 at 9:02 AM

        Oh, and poor officiating. The ref called a lot of things that didn’t look like fouls and let a lot of rough play go unpunished. Also, you can’t get a more blatant penalty than the tackle in the box in the 2nd half. RSL should have gotten a penalty, no question about it. Officials should not be the subject of conversation.. I don’t understand how it is so difficult….

        Reply

    • Posted by Wilson on 2009/11/24 at 11:14 AM

      Beckerman was the best player on the field . Mathis didn’t start this game he even miss crucial shots to win in extra time. Beckerman show amazing touch on the ball was always two steps ahead of the Galaxy and his own team. I wish Bob Bradley would give him more caps.

      Findley played well but if he did’t score he would had a 6 rating. Espindola has always been best forward for Real. Findley had poor touch and passing on his runs. He hurt himself and GK Ricketts because of his bad knock on the ball.

      MLS did raise salary caps already and drop roster sizes to put money into the better players and attract others. but even teams like Galaxy and Sounders and Fire have bad players in starting 11. Can’t fill all holes in one year.

      Reply

      • Posted by Mark T on 2009/11/24 at 11:40 AM

        I should have mentioned Espindola. He had a strong game in relief of Movsisyan.

        Beckerman played very well in the Gold Cup against “B” competition to earn a call up in September. However, watch a replay of US versus El Salvador from Rio Tinto and you’ll see why Bradley won’t “give” him more caps.

        Reply

  7. Posted by Berg on 2009/11/23 at 9:19 AM

    I agree with Mathew N, the ref let play get too chippy at times and held up the action for small infractions. Buddle probably should have seen a yellow for losing his head like that.

    Astounded by the Donovan PK miss, but the guy did put in an absolute beauty of a cross for the first goal. He also created well when he got the ball about 30-35 yards out centrally which just didn’t happen enough.

    Findley’s pace looked blazing against a slower LA defense. No reason not to give him a call up and see what he can do in camp.

    Oh, and ask me how happy I am the Wizards traded Yura Movsisyan to RSL. The Answer: Not so happy

    Reply

  8. Interested in those of you who said Beckerman didn’t impress, all he did was dominate the midfield all night, wreck LA when they were coming forward, play some super legit balls, and win every second ball that he was in the area of. Sure LA’s center mids weren’t great, but playing against him didn’t contribute to their success.

    On the turf issue, considering the fact that multiple teams in the league currently play on turf, it’s not like most of these guys didn’t know what was coming. The atmosphere in the stadium was great, but the overall atmosphere in Seattle this weekend was spectacular. I flew up from SF Friday night and was amazed at all the love for both the MLS cup and the Sounders. There were MLS items everrryyywhheereeee. So so legit.

    Also, word up to all the traveling RSL fans, you make me sad to be an Earthquakes fan. Their fan support was so much better then the Galaxy’s that I can’t even describe it. Couldn’t be happier that they won.

    Reply

    • Posted by Mark T on 2009/11/23 at 10:53 AM

      Beckerman did play well last night and showed the same calming influence in the mid-field that he did for most of the Gold Cup. One thing I noticed was that he has an unbelievable “change-up”…he looks like he is about to wail on the ball and ends up laying of a soft pass to the wing.

      Biggy, as you know, Matthew and my interest in MLS is growing. but it did seem the pitch exceptionally slick last night, more so than other game on turf I have seen.

      Reply

    • Posted by kaya on 2009/11/23 at 10:57 AM

      Glad you had a good time at the game, Biggy. I agree with Matthew N I feel like the MLS might be on the verge of making something of themselves. But there are too many lowly paid and really mediocre players. Regardless, and despite the turf, Seattle sounds awesome.
      As far as Beckerman goes, I just don’t see what all the talk is about. I have the impression he puts everything he has out on the field, and while true that too many players don’t (thus he stands out), he seems technically pretty limited to me.
      I find it ridiculous that LA couldn’t win the game and from what I saw, I’m not sure how it could be blamed on Ricketts’ loss. They simply couldn’t keep the ball. Congrats to RSL.

      Reply

      • Posted by kaya on 2009/11/23 at 11:01 AM

        FYI… when I say ridiculous, I mean in the sense the #1 team lost to a sub 500 club.

        Reply

        • Posted by Wilson on 2009/11/24 at 11:18 AM

          Real Salt Lake did have top the league in points early this season. Chivas USA was the best team all year and not any where near the final four.

          Reply

      • Posted by Matt B on 2009/11/23 at 12:03 PM

        I don’t know about others, but I think Ricketts’ injury was harmful to the Galaxy because they had to use a sub to replace him. Their midfield clearly missed Kovalenko last night due to his illness. According to another article I read, the plan was for him to come in around the 70th minute or so, but that was scrapped due to Ricketts’ injury. But their goalkeeping didn’t seem to suffer when Saunders came in.

        Reply

        • Posted by Mark T on 2009/11/23 at 12:07 PM

          Spot on, Matt, I read that as well. Saunders was good in relief, but the loss of the sub was critical to the Galaxy especially in the extra time when RSL was having their way with LA in the middle of the pitch.

          Reply

  9. Posted by shane on 2009/11/23 at 10:54 AM

    Call me silly but I think LD should get put up top for the Nats.. We have the depth in midfield with Castillo, Rogers, Iceman, Torres, Jones?

    Landon D. Is one of the couple creative players we have on our squad and he needs to pair with Jozy and get envolved in the game..

    Robbie Findley should be in the 18 for SA2010, I dont see anyone else in our talent pool.. Maybe Chris Rolfe? I dont know..

    Reply

    • Posted by Wilson on 2009/11/24 at 11:21 AM

      LD on top is good idea now that CD is out Rolfe is way better then Findley. Robbie has one tool, speed, he can shoot but if he couldn’t he be out of MLS. he has poor touch and poor vision, poor knowledge of the game.

      Reply

  10. RE: Turf Fields. I know it had been mentioned that there are a few other Field Turf fields in MLS… Toronto just recently announced that they were replacing their FT with natural grass for next season. Hopefully that means momentum for grass in MLS. Obviously Seattle has a lot more logistical problems sharing with the Seahawks when football starts, but as it was discussed earlier if Sounders could do it for the Barca game then why not the Copa Finale.

    RE: John Saunders (LA back up). I thought he played a fantastic game for coming in cold and also losing his best defender in the 2nd half. Was in great position on the last second tackle that Dela Garza came in for (he would’ve had it if Garza didn’t). Was admirable in the shoot out (how many PKs did you want him to save?) only to be bested by the PK master Rimando. He certainly is aggressive when it comes to high balls in the box ( I thought he came out pretty far on a number of corners and crosses), but all fared well. Not bad for an MLS backup. Not everyone can have a Matt Cassel like backup in MLS (in fact I don’t think there are many of those types period in the league).

    RE: RSL dominance

    RSL, led by Beckerman (good, not great last night) and the rest of the midfield was utterly dominant in the game. Kreis is a hell of coach from the distribution and ball movement that RSL exhibited. Maybe its just because there are so many times when getting 3 or more passes together seems like a Christmas miracle in MLS, but it was impressive. LA, even with Beckham’s golden ball (sorry I had to do it) passing, RSL moved the ball with ease throughout the game. Given acres of space, they took it and exploited it with abandon. This was a well-oiled midfield machine that did MLS offenses proud.

    Reply

  11. Posted by Wilson on 2009/11/24 at 11:31 AM

    I think Galaxy was better team but Salt Lake was better fitness. The Backup goalie Saunders was solid can’t expect any better from a backup GK. He was perfect. Fitness keep Real in the game while Galaxy dominated most of the 90 mins. Beckerman was control of ball and passes kept the ball way from a dominate Galaxy. They dominated so much that they did too much running to take shot on goal and hurt them in OT. The field turf is turf. The players ability to adjust and keep his feet and control of the ball, Thus shows the players overall talent and skill. Beckham, Beckerman, and Landon are the players that never struggled. Andy Williams is old and fat now or he be in that group. I wanted to watch Sunday Night Football My Bears beat the Eagles. But in the end I appreciated the time slot for MLS CUP. I continually flip channels all night and saw end of the Match them the Bears fail to show up.

    Reply

    • Posted by Wilson on 2009/11/24 at 11:37 AM

      I forgot to mention the Horrible inconsistent referee. He was out of place with these egoed pro players. Call some things but not all the time. at least the side judges were solid on offside calls and other sideline calls.

      Reply

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