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WEEKLY WHINE

Discussion on the MLS Historical Cup

Last week, we held our first GoobNet MLS Historical Cup to determine the best squad in the history of Major League Soccer. The champions were last year’s Los Angeles Galaxy squad, who took the Supporters Shield and MLS Cup, the sixth time in league history that double has been accomplished. In fact, the last four squads standing in the tournament – the 1997 and 1998 DC United squads also qualified, as did the 2010 Galaxy – were all led by Bruce Arena.

A robust discussion soon began on our many GoobNet media platforms. Hot topics included whether there was a bias toward Los Angeles or toward coach Arena’s squads, whether there was a bias toward more recent squads, whether there was a bias toward higher seeded squads, and whether there was a bias toward more popular or well known squads. So if there was an overarching theme to the responses, it would have something to do with biases.

But in amongst the many posts that could be fit to the schematic of “Omg wtf y r u so byassed agst [year] [team name] y do u hate [someone who played on that team in that year] FUCK ALL HATERS LOL”, there were actually some valid points raised. Not enough, but still.

So, please stand behind this protective sheet rock and put on your lead goggles in preparation for the opening of the GoobNet Mailbox. And be careful where you put that hand.

I was interested to see that all teams that have ever existed in MLS were represented, with the exception of Toronto, Philadelphia, Portland, and Vancouver. Even Chivas USA made the list once.

– John Fenceforth
West Philadelphia, PA, USA

Yes, the presence of so many teams is a testament to the league’s structure and the resulting parity. The rules for team selections were actually quite simple. Every year, we took four teams automatically: the Supporters Shield winner, the two MLS Cup finalists, and the US Open Cup winner. Since sixteen seasons have been completed to date, this would have filled out the list of 64 participants had there been no winners of multiple trophies.

But of course, there were. In addition to the six Shield-Cup double winners, there were also three MLS Cup-Open Cup winners, one Shield-Open Cup double winner [Chicago in 2003], and five Open Cup winners who reached the MLS Cup final and lost [including Chicago in 2003].

Therefore, as we discussed last week, we also placed the four teams that reached the final of the CONCACAF Champions League/​Cup, three of which had not already qualified. This left thirteen more places to fill, so we took the highest placed team that had not already qualified, based on regular season finish, from each of the last thirteen years. The Chivas of 2007 qualified by this route as the second placed team overall.

We gave some consideration to including the Canadian Championship winner but decided against this, because Canadian entries in MLS have been sucky so far. Of course, should this year’s TFC squad amazingly reach the CONCACAF Champions League final, they will qualify for the next MLS Historical Cup.

How come there were so many meetings of teams from the same year? Like the 2011 Galaxy met the 2011 FC Dallas and then the 2011 Real Salt Lake. There were also a lot of meetings of different years of the same team. There were four matchups between DC United teams, and the 2010 Galaxy got to the Final Four by beating three other Galaxy teams. What gives?

– Marcel Sampedro
Harbor Gate, CA, USA

There were so many LA-LA and DC-DC meetings because they are the two most successful clubs in league history. Twelve LA Galaxy squads and nine DC United squads qualified for the tournament, and most of them were very good teams that reached the latter rounds. It was inevitable that they would have to square off against one another.

As for teams from the same year, those meetings involving the 2011 Galaxy were the only meetings in the entire tournament of teams from the same year.

There were a lot of Galaxy and United teams in the tournament. How did tournament appearances break down overall by team?

– Charlie O’Shea
Lancaster, PA, USA

As we said, the Galaxy appeared twelve times, and DC United appeared nine times. Five squads each represented Chicago, Dallas, Houston [out of six seasons of existence], and New England. All three Seattle MLS squads, Open Cup winners each, appeared. Columbus sent four squads, San Jose four, Salt Lake three, Colorado two, Kansas City two, New York two, Chivas USA one. Even the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion had one appearance each, as each team won the Supporters Shield.

Of course, the last four contained two consecutive DC and two consecutive LA squads. As for the round of sixteen, five of them were DC United, four were LA Galaxy, two were Chicago Fire, two were Columbus Crew, and there was one each of Houston Dynamo, Kansas City Wizards, and San Jose Earthquakes.

The seeding decisions made no sense whatsoever. RSL has been massively successful over the last three years – an MLS Cup and a trip to the CONCACAF Champions League final – but none of those teams were seeded any higher than eighth. That is not fair at all.

– Kenneth Bradley Baker
Salt Lake City, UT, USA

Actually, it is totally fair. Last week we mentioned that the top eight overall seeds were the Shield-Cup double winners plus 1998 DC [Champions Cup and Interamerican Cup] and 2003 Chicago [Shield, Open Cup, MLS Cup finalist]. The next seven seeds were teams that won the Open Cup and reached the MLS Cup final. These were then followed by the sixteen teams that won either the MLS Cup or the Shield but not both. Of these, 2009 Real Salt Lake were seeded the lowest because they were the lowest seed in the playoffs and only reached the MLS Cup final by winning the Eastern Conference title.

So, of the last three years of Salt Lake squads, the 2009 squad was the only one to win something and was therefore seeded highest. But there were many other squads in MLS history that were more successful.

It seemed like recent teams almost always beat older teams. Why was that?

– Jennifer LeMarcalette
San Juan, PR, USA

The standard of play in MLS has generally increased over the years. Thus, all else being equal, a more recent squad was given preference because it accomplished what it did against better opposition. For example, the 2006 DC United squad defeated the 1996 DC squad in the second round, even though the 1996 squad won both the MLS Cup and the Open Cup. DC in 1996 had a high goals scored and a high goals conceded total, whilst the 2006 DC squad conceded only 38 goals. The committee therefore considered the 2006 squad the better overall team. Interestingly, both DC squads featured Jaime Moreno.

Once again Columbus gets no love. There have been some great Crew teams in the last few years, but none of them reached the Final Four. The coastal bias is obvious here.

– Paul Vitalis
Naprene, OH, USA

The best Columbus teams ever were the Shield winning teams in 2008 and 2009. The 2009 team was placed in the Frank Yallop Regional with the 1997 and 1999 DC United juggernauts. We judged that the 2009 Crew would squeak past the 1999 DC squad but that the 1997 squad would be a hurdle too high.

The 2008 Crew, who won the Shield-MLS Cup double, were the highest seed in the Dominic Kinnear Regional, but they were unfortunate to run into the buzzsaw that was the 1998 DC squad.

Did Bruce Arena secretly select the teams, or what?

– Dominic Kinnear
Houston, TX, USA

No. The GoobNet Football committee judged the tournament by determining which team would win each matchup if the concerned teams could meet in a real match using present day rules [ie, no 35 yard shootout].

I do not understand how you reached your decisions. The best team in MLS history was without doubt the 2000 Wizards. Tony and his defence conceded only 29 goals in the entire season. We could have defeated the 2010 Galaxy without question.

– Miklos Molnar
Copenhagen, Denmark

That would be awesome to see. Even so, go away and get back to your triathlons.

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