It was an interesting evening in Toronto for every reason except the actual game. Massive fan exits left BMO Field nearly empty by the final whistle of extra time, Don Garber announced a further dilution of the playoffs with 10 teams advancing next season, the referee and linesman were a joke, and oh yeah, the Colorado Rapids won their first MLS Cup.
While the game was announced as a sellout, from the outset it was clear that while the overpriced tickets might of been sold, the large number of people who were apparently forced to purchase them as part of their Toronto FC season ticket packages had little interest in making the final MLS game of the 2010 season look like anything more that a normal night at Pizza Hut Park or Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
There were already empty seats right after kick-off and by halftime you could see the white seats that created the various designs in the stands. When extra time began, there were whole parts of sections empty and by the time the Rapids were celebrating, it was a ghost town.
No doubt vollies will be fired from every direction in the coming days as different groups attempt to lay the blame for the attendance nightmare at the feet of anyone but themselves.
ESPN is likely not thrilled as they had to adjust the camera angle at halftime to try to fool the hundreds of people watching at home that the crowd was still there. Though it might be fair to say that John Harkes was so awful on commentary, most people had already changed the channel. MLS and Don Garber can't be thrilled that their "marquee" event was basically ignored by the media all week and then gave the media all the wrong talking points to use in the aftermath.
I'm sure Toronto FC fans will catch their fair share of shrapnel over this and in reading various articles this morning, it's already starting. Phrases like "lack of knowledge" and "lack of care for the product" are popular as are words like "shameful" and "disgrace". To be fair, the supporters section was full or mostly full until very late in the match. It wasn't the hardcore fans, but the prawn sandwich sections that either chose to protest their displeasure with MLSE by not showing up or leaving early.
Whatever the reason behind the terrible crowd last night, you'd have to think that Toronto won't be considered for a major MLS event for a long time. More likely, they will be the catalyst for the end of neutral field MLS Cup finals.
As for the game, I watched the last 12-15 minutes. Basically from the FC Dallas own goal to the final whistle. Hey, I had better things to do like viewing Episode four of The Walking Dead.
Having watched highlights and read match reports, I can safely say I didn't miss much. League MVP David Ferreira's goal was the most aesthetically pleasing moment of the night, while Colorado's two goals were at best scrappy. Match MVP Conor Casey behaved like an out of control bulldozer all night and while his impact on the match cannot be denied, it was hardly very sportsmanlike at times.
Basically, it wasn't pretty and when the match winner from Macoumba Kandji was a goal that deflects off the knee of George John, it was the inevitable and somewhat fitting summation of the entire night.
As for the referee? Well it was the same old crap we've come to expect from USSF and MLS. Hopefully Garber's comments during the week that the league is going to work with US Soccer to try and fix their glaring eyesore of a problem will come true, but I'm not holding my breath.
Finally, it appears the MLS Playoffs will expand to 10 teams beginning next season...but they need 30 days to figure out how it will work. More solid PR work. When the league reaches 20 teams, 10 teams in the playoffs might make sense, but with only 18 playing next season, 55% of the teams in MLS will make the playoffs. If you think it's bad having an 8th seed and a 7th seed win MLS Cup, wait until the 10th seed does it.
More disturbing for me was Garber's fumbling response when asked how the league would reward winning the Supporter's Shield. He had to know this question was coming and he was completely unprepared with even one of his patented company line answers. Even that would have been better than falling all over yourself.
Is there really any better way to describe the 2010 MLS Cup Final as a night best soon forgotten?