A wild end to the MLS regular season

Decision Day: Real Salt Lake moves on, L.A. double denied, and a farewell to a lifer

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Real Salt Lake’s Aaron Herrera, Justen Glad, and Andrew Brody celebrate after their team’s victory over Sporting Kansas City.
Real Salt Lake’s Aaron Herrera, Justen Glad, and Andrew Brody celebrate after their team’s victory over Sporting Kansas City.
Image: AP

MLS had its “Decision Day” yesterday, the last day of the regular season when all of its playoff spots get shaken out. The permutation for the top, middle, and bottom of the playoff picture were David Lynch-level convoluted, so sometimes it’s best to express the happenings in one highlight:

You can tell by the reaction that this 95th-minute winner on the road against Sporting K.C. that put Real Salt Lake into the playoffs with a 1-0 win, sent both L.A. teams home, kept K.C. from claiming the conference’s top spot and getting a bye to the conference semis. That’s how you’d draw it up in the league office to demonstrate last-day drama.


It made for gut-wrenching viewing for the L.A. Galaxy, who had battled back from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits in their game to get a 3-3 draw that looked like it would be enough until the final minute. But then when you’re chasing a playoff spot, not getting the win is always asking for trouble, isn’t it?

It also saw the last day in the career of Chris Wondolowski. Wondolowski is the type of MLS lifer that the league is basically moving on from, as it looks to produce more and more kids that can be sold off to Europe to fund the league and teams. Wondo was a San Jose icon, spending the last 12 years of his career there. He poured in 166 goals in those 12 years, over 375 appearances. Wondo was something of the U.S. soccer cliche in that it was hard to figure out what he did all that well. He wasn’t fast, he wasn’t all that big, his first touch could usually be described as agricultural. He just was in the right spot in MLS’s less pressured environs, and could finish when he got to those spots and had that time. He was the league’s Pippo Inzaghi, the guy you wouldn’t see and when you did you couldn’t figure out what he was doing out there, until he was popping up completely open in the penalty area, scoring and then celebrating like a madman.


It got him a cup of coffee with the national team, where he’ll probably be best remembered for missing a last-gasp equalizer against Belgium in the 2014 World Cup. That’s unfair to Wondo, but it’s also what happened to players like him at the top level.

Wondo was good and comfortable at his level, and gave Earthquakes fans something to identify with for over a decade. It’s hard to see how that’ll happen anymore, as promising young players will be packaged off (as they should), and other than that it’ll probably still be aging vets looking for one last check. Wondo didn’t have a lot, but he took what he had and made it sing.