By Kyle McCarthy
I can't think of a regime change that ever started in Columbus.
a pack of unruly Ohio State fans created a groundswell to nudge John
Cooper out the door after two lackluster seasons at the turn of the
millennium because he couldn't win a national championship or beat
Michigan. But there certainly isn't one particular event in memory to
suggest Ohio's capital city ever fostered revolutionary actions.
Until now. Columbus confounded everyone's expectations to lift MLS Cup this season, and in doing so, have caused quite a ruckus.
a campaign that should be remembered more for its storylines than for
its level of play, Columbus' ability to break through the Houston-New
England playoff stranglehold stands out as a watershed.
the demise of the Dynamo-Revolution axis of success isn't a slight
against either of the fallen playoff heroes (or anti-heroes). Over the
past few years Houston and New England compiled coherent strategies,
admirable groups of primarily domestic players who stuck around longer
than perhaps they should have, and exemplary coaching staffs.
a league predicated on the single entity and parity, both clubs managed
to upset the general tendency of ebb and flow to maintain a place at or
near the top of the league for half a decade. With a more balanced
schedule next season, the descent may just prove a temporary blip.
the past few seasons, many teams around the league have tried to
replicate the model of success the Revs and the Orange followed, but no
club can point to anything more than a futile attempt. A few -- like
Chicago and Colorado -- rose and fell depending on the season, finding
the right blend for a short stretch and slinking back to the pack.
United went in an entirely different direction by trying to import half
of South America. Two Supporters' Shields, two early playoff exits and
a failed playoff charge this season suggest the strategy didn't reap
the necessary dividends.
Meanwhile, Crew head coach Sigi
Schmid constructed his team much like those assembled in Houston and
New England: solid goalkeeper, miserly and uncompromising defenders,
flying wingers, two-way midfielders and a rugged striker to lead the
line. For better or worse, the most successful teams in the league have
proven difficult to beat, and Columbus accomplished that as well.
and his Crew varied its formula in one important respect. Whereas the
Houston and New England vintage models keyed on a target striker (Brian
Ching, Taylor Twellman) and a defensive midfielder (Ricardo Clark,
Shalrie Joseph), the Crew's version relied on an aging and sometimes
frail playmaker (Guillermo Barros Schelotto) to propel the team
forward. Schmid's Crew incorporated an offensive verve that may have
been missing from previous versions. Not that the original model ended
up on the scrap heap as the attacking nous came cloaked inside a 4-5-1
formation that appeared more defensive in theory than in practice.
mitigating factors might impact the Crew's place amongst the hierarchy
of champions and great teams. No team benefited from scheduling more
than the Crew; other key challengers picked up additional fixtures in
SuperLiga and the CONCACAF Champions League while Columbus was able to
focus primarily on the league. There is also the nagging feeling that
the Crew, with Schmid apparently headed to Seattle, Barros Schelotto
wrangling with the club over salary and Chad Marshall flirting with a
move to Europe, may not last at the top.
masked a relatively humdrum campaign on the field and a particularly
exciting season off it. If you're not a Columbus fan, chances are you
won't remember this season particularly fondly.
Aside from the
Crew, which placed itself amongst the top ten teams in league history
with its double, there were three intermittently good teams that ran
the gamut between not-so-good and brilliant at different points during
the season (Houston, New England and Chicago), one team that was decent
when it wasn't fighting a host of crippling injuries (Chivas USA), one
overachieving team that deserved its playoff berth (Real Salt Lake),
one team that took us on a wild playoff ride after a wretched regular
season (New York) and a bunch of other teams that won't be remembered
even by their own supporters.
Although the overall quality of
play may have dropped slightly (particularly on the defensive side of
the ball), the multitude of stories coming from the season more than
made up for any lingering mediocrity. In no particular order and
bearing no particular warranty of comprehensiveness, those story lines
include the following:
- The brutal schedule
that impacted Houston, New England, D.C. United and Chivas USA and
hampered their playoff chances.
- The hapless Los Angeles defense and the leadership change it caused.
- The first performance enhancing drug scandal and how it sparked the Red Bulls.
Landon Donovan hitting everyone over the head and reminding them
of his ample talents with a 20-goal season.
The seemingly interminable saga leading to Brian McBride's return
and the sad denouement leading to Claudio Reyna's retirement.
Jozy Altidore earning the league $10 million with his transfer to
Villarreal and Mo Edu earning the league far less for his move to
- Juan Pablo Angel breaking new ground the first Designated Player to reach MLS Cup.
Two teams out of 14 posting winning records on the road – and those two
clubs combined to win two more games than they lost on the road.
- The cult of Kenny Cooper.
- The rejuvenation of Edson Buddle, Jon Busch, and Conor Casey.
- The salvation of Santino Quaranta.
- David Beckham's continued involvement with England and the return of off-season loans it has caused.
amongst the multitude of compelling story lines, the Crew and its rise
from playoff also-ran to MLS Cup champion stands out.
That shouldn't be a surprise. In historical annals, regime change always does.
McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and blogs frequently during
the week for Goal.com. Contact him with your questions or comments at email@example.com.