David Hirshey writes regularly about soccer for Deadspin.
That primal scream of pain echoing down Third Avenue yesterday afternoon was not the sound of K-Fed being thrown off the Britney gravy train but the agonizing howls of yours truly watching the MLS Cup. Oh, the sacrifices I make to educate the poor beknighted Deadspin reader amaze even me sometimes. I know what you're thinking: Why didn't I just write my usual saliva-drenched piffle about Arsenal depantsing Liverpool 3-0 to stay within hailing distance of ManU and Chelsea in the Premiership race and maybe throw in something about how Arsene Wenger finally owned up to his girly-man assault on Alan Pardew but stopped short of the kind of groveling apology the cheese-eating, Nazi-welcoming French are known for.
But given that this was also the day where "the greatest MLS season in history" was being capped off with the championship game between the New England Revolution and the Houston Dynamo, didn't I also have an obligation as a red-blooded American to watch the best soccer my country had to offer? I mean, if the MLS is good enough for Beckham, Ronaldo and Figo, as commissioner Dan Garber desperately asked us to believe at halftime of a dreary 0-0 draw, then surely it's worthy of Eurosnobs like me who waste their lives sitting — not to mention drinking — in Irish pubs every Saturday and Sunday morning in order to get the kind of soccer fix they feel is unavailable from sea to shining sea. Or as Joanne, the long-suffering bartender at Kinsale Tavern (this is an official Deadspin invitation to join me — I'll buy the first round — any weekend morning at 93rd and 3rd in Manhattan) put it, "How do you know the soccer is crap unless you give it a try?"
Well, if I had been more assiduous in following the astute warnings of Soccer America's Paul Gardner and SI's Grant Wahl, I would have known I wasn't likely to witness a "Superclasico." Both used the word "constipated" to describe New England's style, and Wahl tagged Revs' coach Steve Nichol with the delightful monicker "Stevie Sphincter," a tribute to the Revs' inability to squeeze out a single goal over the course of their last two MLS Cup appearances. I'm happy to report that the Revs finally put the ball in the net this time — after a mere 123 minutes. Taylor Twellman, who wasn't deemed good enough to make Bruce Arena's World Cup American juggernaut, broke the scoreless tie when he split two defenders and lashed a shot into the far corner. What sweet vindication it was for Twellman, especially with Arena in the ABC booth as Eric Wynalda's caddy, and he had all of 71 seconds to savor it. Houston's Brian Ching, who essentially beat out Twellman for the last striker spot on the U.S. team, ruined Twellman's day again by latching on to a long cross from Brian Mullan and looping a twisting header over the flailing arms of Revs' keeper Matt Reis.
If only these two well-struck goals had been scored early on instead of in the frantic minutes before the inevitable and deeply unsatisfying shootout, then perhaps the MLS might have truly had a game that would have showcased their talents ... however modest they are. After all, everything else was in place: a major league setting — a soccer specific stadium with no football lines to cause temporary blindness — a national television audience and, in the Revs' Clint Dempsey (a second half sub due to lingering injury) and Houston's Dwayne De Rosario, two guys who could — and probably will — ply their trade anywhere in Europe. Alas, the final product, the actual match on the field, was lacking in skill and verve, and there's no guarantee that's going to change anytime soon, even if Becks chooses MLS as his final soccer rest home.
Hey Joanne, see you next week for Arsenal v. Newcastle.