Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Other Champions League and a Ref We Can Believe In!

In case you missed it, last night the Champions League kicked off in fervent style!

Oh wait, that was the CONCACAF Champions League, which began with a whimper after DC United drew 1-1 with CD Luis Angel Firpo of El Salvador in one of the poorest games I've ever seen (I would be much more up in arms at wasting my time and money if it wasn't for the fact that this game was included in my season ticket package). With barely 8,000 people there to witness a bunch of reserves play with seemingly no passion or desire, we're reminded of how there is absolutely no depth on MLS teams. Devon McTavish might be Mother Theresa for all I know, but he's no Michael Essien that one, and Greg Janicki showed why he was playing in USL-2 last year. And in a disappointing development, Danny Szetela is very rusty and out of shape. Not too surprising, but it looks like it's going to take him time to find his form.

Many teams, including those from MLS, will take the Champions League seriously. DC United took it seriously last year but just flamed out stupendously. But yesterday it didn't look like DC really cared about this game, plain and simple. DC will likely focus their energies on the MLS season and winning the MLS Cup, as well as the US Open Cup (which would guarantee them a spot in international competition again next year). These competitions are good for MLS sides to test themselves in hostile road environments and to measure up against the more established and richer Mexican clubs. Doing well provides MLS teams a measure of validation and respect that hey, MLS teams while not EPL or La Liga quality are also not third tier teams. Unfortunately performances like last night make it difficult to argue that case.

However, out of last nights ashes arose a phoenix, namely a referee that I am compelled to salute. This is difficult because he wasn't actually a good referee (there's no such thing in CONCACAF) but Paul Enrique Delgadillo Haro did something I've been adamantly yelling at referees to do for a long time - he carded a player for unsportsmanlike overacting and faking an injury!!! Carlos Monteagudo was involved in a play in which some arms got tangled and he was possible lightly tapped on the nose. Apparently he thought Manny Pacquiao was playing for DC as he subsequently fell theatrically and remained lying on the field clutching his face. After being carried off the field on a stretcher, it was only by the dint of his courage and divine intervention that was he able to somehow get up and walk back onto the field and play again. Fortunately for those who hate liars, cheaters and simulators, Mr. Delgadillo Haro didn't appreciate that ish and produced a yellow card to the delight of soccer fans the world over. If video becomes available, no doubt I will post it. In the meantime here are the rest of the highlights if you really care.

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