With all due respect to Chief Justice Michael Stailey, the Chicago Fire suck!
12 years of highlights from the MLS Cup.
As I've mentioned before, it's no big secret that I'm a fan of Major League Soccer. In fact, if you've been in our forums section, I've got a picture of my favorite team as an avatar. I think the sport continues to make inroads into the United States (since my review of the 2007 MLS Cup DVD, MLS franchises have been planned or announced for Seattle and Philadelphia.), and marginal improvements continue to be seen. But there's still a ways to go before it reaches the level of recognition that other countries experience. This video release is the third release by MLS in 10 months and the first to explore the roots and history of the league. Oddly enough, it might be the best release yet for the league too.
To sum up the league's teams and finals in so many words, I'll start from the beginning, where the DC United team placed their boot on the necks of the league early on, reaching the MLS Cup Finals in the first four years of the League's existence, win three titles (the Chicago Fire managed to break the stranglehold). In the 2001 Season, the San Jose Earthquakes won their first title and in 2002, and the New England Revolution appeared in their first final. Since then, the road to the finals has seen one (or both) of these teams for most years, even after San Jose moved to Houston, where it is currently known as the Houston Dynamo. San Jose won the title again in 2003, and after DC won their fourth title in 2004, the Revolution returned to the finals in 2005, only to lose to the Los Angeles Galaxy again (LA beat New England in 2002). Houston beat New England in dramatic penalty kick fashion to win the Cup in 2006, and the teams returned again in 2007.
The History of the MLS Cup DVD features interviews from the key participants over the championship's years and includes extensive highlights from each game, more than I was expecting, quite frankly. The highlights could easily have been pulled from the televised broadcasts, but MLS uses film from other angles on the field and, in some cases, has a camera in the locker room before, during and after the final match. Take the 1999 final between United and the Galaxy. Before the game, we see United player Roy Lassiter and coach Thomas Rongen give their mates a profane kick in the pants, and at halftime when the team is winning, we switch to the Galaxy locker, where Cobi Jones swears in frustration with his team's performance. Other players through the years of the finals like John Harkes, Preki, Jeff Agoos, and Landon Donovan provide a mix of new and dated interviews, which share their thoughts on the games and legacy.
That's not to say that the video is without its down moments. The 1998 DC United squad, arguably the greatest team in MLS' history, was coached by Bruce Arena, who later coached the Men's National Team in the 2002 and 2006 World Cup. He tossed some not-so-subtle jabs in the direction of League offices, noting the short rest schedule that DC had before getting to the finals, along with some perceived financial liberties that Chicago had as an expansion team. Then you have the inclusion and downright intrusiveness of Eric Wynalda. Yeah, I know, he's scored a lot of goals for the National Team, but a) he doesn't hold that record anymore, as Donovan passed him last year, and b) did he ever play on a team that even WENT to the finals? I know that he's a growing voice for MLS, appearing as a contributor in the league-published magazine, but let's start looking toward others to fill that role, shall we?
Bruce's sour grapes (and Eric's screen time) aside, this whole video is much better than I was expecting. It was a good mix of attractive footage and dramatic music in the vein of some NFL Films, plus the footage captures some of the essence on why some Americans find the sport so appealing. To date, this is the best video in the short history of the MLS production house, and they—like the league—are doing decent work in their infancy. Fans of MLS or soccer will enjoy watching this and should strongly consider adding this to their library.
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