Being that I live in Europe currently the time difference for watching the MLS playoffs is a bit hard. Because of this I was unable to watch last nights'/this early mornings' match between NY Red Bulls v. San Jose Earthquakes. I wasn't at all surprised, however, to find out the Earthquakes had won the tie and now move on to the MLS Cup Semi-final.
First off, MLS has to be cursing the Earthquakes. They badly wanted/needed NY to progress to the final, to get NY the second largest market in the US to care about soccer. Also, they were dreaming of a LA v. NY final. It would have been the biggest final in MLS history and now thanks to San Jose it's not to be.
San Jose is a team in one of the smallest markets in MLS that has now defeated the team with one of the two largest payrolls. NY boasts Juan Pablo Angel (who will most likely move on after this season), Rafa Marquez and Thierry Henry; so why should San Jose have any chance of beating them? NY signed Marquez and Henry in midseason as designated players and both have contributed to the side. However, it seems that signing them midseason may have been a mistake. Henry only appeared in 10 matches scoring two goals. Though Henry hadn't played much for Barcelona at the end of last season or at the World Cup he still wasn't as fresh as other possible players. NY also traded striker Macoumba Kandji to Colorado to give Henry a proper place up front. Being 33 years old and coming to a league that is more physical than credited for probably didn't help either. Marquez, 31, also featured in 10 matches and recorded one goal for NY. But more importantly he was an experienced defeader to help rookie Tim Ream. But why couldn't NY progress past a team who is making the playoffs for the first time since their re-incarnation of the franchise in 2008?
MLS teams with DPs rely to much on DPs. I believe there is much naivety in MLS that a DP can make a difference on the pitch. As we've seen many DPs are here for the money and are a simple marketing tool. MLS executives seem to think building a team isn't as important as having one big name. It tool LA Galaxy two seasons to discover that had to put more than David Beckham on the field. DPs have now failed for DC United and Toronto (which could be argued). One thing I feel this proves about MLS execs is they still don't/can't grasp soccer and that they're just selling a product not building an actually soccer club.
San Jose proves the point that MLS is a workmen's league. San Jose boasted the league's golden boot winner Chris Wondolowski who scored 20 goals in 38 regular season matches. Prior to this season he had only scored four MLS goals in five MLS season. FOUR!!!!
I'm sure San Jose can continue their momentum all the way to the MLS Cup Final. Salt Lake did it last season and NY this season before. Which also shows there is a problem with a playoff format, but I digress.