The following are some highlights from the SA Online forum on MLS Cup '96 (some responses have been edited).
Albert A. Sykes
Great game! My son and I drove over seven hours (in the rain, of course) to see the game. The atmosphere at Foxboro was fantastic. People were there for soccer. There were lots of local soccer teams with their coaches, moms and dads and we were all sitting in the rain having a great time.
The level of play was excellent. The sign of a great team is its ability to cope with changing field conditions. Both teams did a fantastic job and we got to see some great soccer. If 34,643 will come to a Cup Final game in "trying" conditions, then I'm sure soccer is here to stay.
What an exciting way to end the year! DC proved they wouldn't give up. Credit must go to Bruce Arena: both subs scored to tie the match in the late going.
Should the rules be changed to not suspend players for yellow cards? Of course not! The rules are in place to discourage players from ungentlemanly conduct. If a player gets three yellows during the relatively few games in the playoffs, he should expect to be suspended for a match, no matter which one it happens to be. Certainly Calichman's presence would have helped the Galaxy, but we'll never know if it would have effected the outcome. Those are the breaks.
Seems to me though that it is rather silly to play two best-of-three game series to make it to the final and then just play one game for all of the marbles. Maybe all of the playoff series should be two-game home-and-home series. If all the tiebreakers are tied after the second game, then play a minigame to break the tie. But you can't beat the drama of today's match.
It was a sight I thought I would never see. My team (Phoenix SC, Philadelphia) had just concluded our first round U.S. Amateur Cup match and were able to hang out in the clubhouse bar and watch a fantastic pro soccer match LIVE IN AMERICA. The entire bar (approximately 50 people) was captivated with the epic struggle in the muck at Foxboro. What amazed me was the ability of the players to play at such a high level in the horrid conditions. Tony Sanneh's leap on the first goal was unbelievable!!! Then to see a rising AMERICAN star become the hero was just icing on the cake. What a superb climax to the inaugural season. I hope the big wigs at the MLS are able to fine-tune the product for next season (home-and-home playoff series are a must!) and light a fire under the Marketing Departments in the cities that lagged in attendance especially Colorado, K.C. and Tampa.
I would have liked to have seen both of these fine teams and their highly skilled players play in the Rose Bowl instead of a freezing rain storm. I think they could have shown more skill and the game would have been more interesting to watch. If this is to be the MLS championship, it should be played at a location where the weather will not have a possible impact on the outcome of the game. The only thing to decide the outcome should be the players skill and the quality of the coaching staffs.
Anybody who has played soccer knows exactly how it must have felt to be out there on that field. Unfortunately, soccer fans missed out on the true quality of play in MLS that would have unquestionably been displayed better on a nice day and on a dry ground. However, there were flashes of pure brilliance in regard to the skill level of many of the players. Etcheverry, Moreno & Cienfuegos were exciting to watch. I was also impressed with the play of Eddie Pope. This guy would look good on Team USA. Well, the only bad part of the day that was bigger for me than Super Bowl Sunday was that the MLS season is over. an exciting end to a true success story (MLS), that I sincerely hope will never disappear!!!!
Moacir de Sa Pereira
The beauty of soccer is exactly that. And the best players will shine during adverse conditions. I was there, I got VERY WET, to the bone, but would not change this experience for watching sanitized indoor sports.
The T.V. Broadcast
I loved today's game. What more could anyone involved with MLS want (except a dry pitch!)? There was the favorite scoring two goals first, and then the underdog coming back to score three unanswered goals (so much for fears by USSF and MLS bigwigs of a scoreless draw) to save us from the unsavory thought of a shootout. Overall, I'd say the game was a resounding success. HOWEVER, I was totally appalled at the incessant babbling coming from the mouth of Ty Keough and Phil Schoen. Enough already! I don't want to hear over and over about the conditions (I can obviously see it for myself), and the pair seemed intent on providing their viewing audience with all aspects of every player's personal lives. Sure, there were a few moments where I picked up a good comment, but on the whole, I was extremely tempted to hit the mute button.
I thought ABC did an excellent, professional job of covering the game. They had incredible slow-motion replays. Here's hoping next year's regular season games are covered in the same manner.
I concur the game had to convert any naysayers about the game of soccer in the US, but the announcers were beyond atrocious, they were awful. For example, the first replay of the no goal scored by Etcheverry clearly showed the ball hit his arm before he stuck it in the net. Keough obviously never watched the monitor, made a ludicrous statement about him not being in an offside position because he was not involved in the play?! The ball struck him in the arm for gosh sakes and he scored the goal, and then to compound this he talked about this play for 10 minutes, defending his position then trying to explain why he thought he was right when the referee explained his call. AND THEN there was that guy on the field, BILL? Where did they dig this guy up? His two comments were, Lothar didn't have time to talk to me and something about a guy overcoming cancer or something. Help Lynn Swann. Someone at MLS has to wake up. The game was incredible I still have goosebumps but I'm going to watch my tape without sound.
Ty Keough is a very knowledgeable soccer person; I don't know what happens to him on TV. He may be the victim of bad coaching by TV types!! I would commend to the TV wizards the work of Dave Johnson and Gordon Bradley for the local outfit covering DC United. Their commentary is well paced and insightful (mostly).
The camera coverage was abysmal. While there is action on the pitch, we don't need to see the coaches' faces or a walking player. If we want portraits, we can read the paper. Directors are still too used to the games which are full of dead time which needs to be filled. Some education about the dynamics of soccer would benefit them (and us) greatly.
Some other thoughts
I don't think any player is more deserving of being in the spotlight of the championship game than D.C.'s Eddie Pope. I work for the student newspaper at North Carolina, and covered Eddie while he was in college and preparing for the Olympics. I have never come across an athlete with more will to constantly improve his game. Eddie's work ethic and skills finally got the recognition they deserve.
Remember the name Eddie Pope. Expect him to be in the MLS for a long time. Expect him to be in France in 1998 for the World Cup. Expect great things from him!
Living in Washington, D.C. has afforded me the luxury of attending several United home matches, including playoff games. In response to a question posed recently in the Washington Post, I believe that playing the MLS Cup Championship game at a neutral site is necessary. United home matches have become wild celebrations. The fans have definitely become a factor in that stadium. I do not envy any team coming to play here, especially during the playoffs.
Consider the series sweep of Tampa Bay. The game in DC was attended by almost 25,000 screaming fans who made hearing on the pitch almost impossible. I truly believe that we played a key role in the United romp. Game two in Tampa had a paltry few thousand spectators. The fans were in no way a factor.
In conclusion, the neutral site for the championship game is imperative to the fairness of the match. Although United could have played in Toledo and they would have prevailed. They are true champions.
First off, I must compliment MLS on its first season, and a splendid final. The level of play is outstanding and fan support is getting better. The overtime was a refreshing change and I'd like to see it used in EVERY MLS tie. I look forward to many more great seasons.
But here's the big pet peeve (besides shoot-outs, team names, and uniforms) --
that @&^@% count-down clock!! It was so frustrating watching LA kill time late in the match (a strategy that back-fired) and most of all, watching the time tick down while the ball wasn't even on the field due to injuries and time-consuming substitutions. It makes me as a fan feel cheated out of precious moments of play.
I get the feeling that MLS is so concerned about the game going longer than the allotted two-hour TV time slot ESPN gives them, that they cheat the fans who pay tickets out of soccer action (and overtimes) in order not to risk bleeding into SportsCenter's time. Appeasing the TV network by lowering the entertainment value of the ticket-paying fan, is not the way to go, and I would discourage MLS from this mentality. The game must come first.
I agree that MLS referees could do more to guarantee that we fans see a full 90 minutes of play. In particular, I think referees should routinely stop the clock after a goal is scored. We all love to see goal celebrations, but why can't we have 30-60 seconds of celebration without also losing that amount of playing time? Stopping the clock after goals would also spare us the ridiculous sight of the referee running after a goalscorer to summon him back to the field or trying to haul players off of a pile to get the game started again.
But, for such a plan to work, the scoreboard operator has to pay attention to the game! I've seen several occasions when the referee tried to stop the clock for an injury or whatever, only to be left standing there with his arms crossed over his head for 15 or 20 seconds until the guys upstairs finished cueing up the 87th playing of the Macarena and finally stop the clock!
Jeffrey R. Holt
What a solid foundation MLS has established in its inaugural season! Sunday's game was so exciting, it has left my mouth watering. I can hardly wait until next season.
But aside from the pure beauty and joy of the sport, we all know that what MLS needs to survive is financial support. It seems they've got it. 35,000 fans in the rain, regular season attendance 45% over expectation, strong support from sponsors.
In fact, I found the TV commercials run during the game almost as exciting as the game itself. Reebok scored big with Gabriel Batistuta and Juergen Klinsmann. And the Pepsi/Snickers plug with Andres Cantor was clever. I know, I know there is too much commercialism in America already. But hey, if the commercials are gonna support soccer and they have a soccer theme, they're a little bit easier to swallow. Hell, I'll buy those products just because they support soccer.
For me, the main thing I want to remember about the final was Marco Antonio Etcheverry. His play leads me to comment on an issue slightly peripheral to the final itself.
MLS fans are involved in a long, ongoing discussion about the pros and cons of adding another foreigner to the squads next year. Most people who are against such a move argue that MLS should place the development of U.S. players at the top of its list of priorities, and for that reason the number of foreigners should, if anything, be decreased rather than increased. Those of us who are in favor adding another foreigner to the squads think MLS needs to focus first on putting the best possible product on the field, and that this will be aided by an extra foreigner.
But I, at least, also think the "con" argument is flawed, because I believe the extra foreigner will help the U.S. national team. The best players in this country need to play as often as possible with top-level teammates and opponents. Guys like Reyna and Kirovski are doing much more for their games playing in Europe than they would if they were in MLS, to give two examples. But the U.S. players who are in MLS need top-level competition, as well. Yes, an extra foreigner will take the place of a U.S. player, but any players who lose jobs under such conditions will hardly be the guys around which the national team will choose its squad.
The point is that the U.S. players who lose out with an increased number of foreigners in MLS are not the national team contenders, anyway. And the MLS guys who are good enough to make the national team need top-level competition... that is, they need an MLS that is as good as possible on the field. For now, at least, they need the extra foreigner.
And so I think of Marco Antonio Etcheverry. D.C. United came back from a two-goal deficit to win the first MLS final, 3-2, with all three goals scored by U.S. players, one or more of whom will eventually play on the national team. Each one of those players scored goals set up by... Marco Antonio Etcheverry. El Diablo was the best player on the field those last 30 minutes, and his brilliance helped three potential U.S. stars score big goals in a big match. D.C. United's comeback demonstrates, to me at least, that an extra foreigner on each squad will be a good thing, not a bad one, for MLS, and for the U.S. national team, by increasing the level of play in MLS and leading future U.S. stars to ever-greater heights of their own.
This is just the beginning -- there are all sorts of comments and discussions going on at the MLS CUP '96 discussion area of SA Online. To check out what others have to say, or to make your own comments, visit the MLS Cup Forum discussion site in the Graffiti section of SA Online.