Wednesday, November 24, 2010

MLS Cup 2010: Baby, It's Cold Outside!

Cold.  That's probably the thing I'll remember most from MLS Cup 2010.  In retrospect, holding the game on a Sunday evening along frigid Lake Ontario may not have been the wisest decision.  And I'm not just saying that because fans froze their asses off outside (and inside) BMO Field.  TV ratings (down 44% from last year) were also abysmal.  Now some of that may have to do with going head-to-head with the NFL, but the matchup didn't help either.  Dallas vs. Colorado starting at 8:30 on a Sunday is not exactly a recipe for a ratings bonanza.

It's regrettable that the game itself turned out to be somewhat of a dud (David Ferreira's goal and two magnificent saves aside), because Toronto is an absolutely wonderful place to visit.  Restaurants, bars, shopping, arts, scenery - the city has it all, scattered over a number of interesting neighborhoods.  I was lucky enough to be able to stay with my awesome friends Adam and Cari, who showed me around town.  My wallet came back a little thinner, but not too much, and I had a wonderful time, even if I was not able to make it to any of the supporter gatherings on Friday and Saturday.  I suspect that the league may be kicking itself for not holding the game on a Saturday.

Given the climate, they also should have considered holding the pre-game fan festival indoors (as you can see from my video above, it was extremely cold and windy).  From what I could tell, there were not really any dining/drinking options in close proximity to BMO.  Given the complete lack of booze until the gates opened at 7:30 and the single, lonely little hot dog cart serving fans food, the atmosphere outside was much less festive than it could/should have been. The fact that you didn't have Colorado and Dallas fans traveling in great numbers to the game also added to the low-key, muted vibe. As for BMO itself, I doubt there is a stadium in the league that offers a more spectacular view of the downtown skyline (Seattle may come close). The stadium itself is very nice and probably even better on a balmy Saturday afternoon.

The most discouraging thing about the game was checking my Twitter at halftime, only to find out that Don Garber has recommended expanding MLS playoffs to ten teams, meaning that again next season more than half the league's clubs will play in postseason.  Sports Illustrated's Steve Davis did a brilliant job of explaining why this is a terrible idea.  Prepare yourself for more teams who don't deserve it getting to celebrate "special moments," while teams who have proven it over the long regular season watch from home.

A big thanks to fellow RBNY fans Tom Binkley, Laura Perry, Amanda Lau and Marc Bernarducci for making it fun to be there, despite the weather.  At the end of the video, you can see Chris Wondolowski signing Binks' souvenir hard hat with the inscription, "I ruined your dream," at his request.  It was kind of cool to meet him so soon after the debacle at Red Bull Arena.  I guess if we can laugh with him about that game, we have at least gone some way toward getting over the disappointing end to the season.

Onward to next year.  Expansion draft is today!
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