As the playoffs move forward, clubs and their fans will develop a deeper understanding of why it is so dreadfully important to finish first, second or third … and to avoid those final two conference playoff seedings at all costs.
Chicago knows today, for instance, the cost of that poor finishing in its regular season finale, the 1-1 draw at home with D.C. United. Rather than finishing in a higher spot, afforded the luxury of a sit-and-wait for a weekend match, the Fire had to play in last night’s single-game knockout round. And came the knockout.
So the Fire is done.
For Houston, the news is better … but the Dynamo are hardly on the bullet train toward MLS Cup success and downtown parades and such. They get just three full days of rest before facing Eastern champion Kansas City in the first of a two-leg series. One of those days (today) will be largely eaten up with travel.
And here’s a big reason why this extra match begins to sting, one that doesn’t get as much attention:
Yellow cards have a tendency to mount.
Critical midfielder Brad Davis and goalkeeper Tally Hall collected cautions last night, and both deserved, it should be said. (At one point, Hall held a gathered ball for every bit of15 seconds; if this had been a women’s Olympic game, we would have seen the rare indirect free kick inside the penalty area for Chicago.)
Referee Baldomero Toledo managed the contest well, nit-picking on some little things early and whistling for all the fouls early, a trusty way of quickly establishing the correct tone, and yet a method that too many referees simply cannot get figured out. The result was a match that finished with just two yellow cards, quite acceptable by MLS standards.
But … Hall and Davis are now on notice. If they are cautioned once more they will miss the following playoff contest. (Unless it happens in the second leg of a conference final; in that case, they would not miss the MLS Cup final.)
Hall was excellent last night, just as he was in the Dynamo’s 2011 playoff run. Davis is Davis, a man who greatly assists the Dynamo midfield possession and scares the pooh out of teams with those deadeye set piece deliveries.