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MLS First Several Thousand Kicks: A Weekend Well Spent

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I like MLS. No, I love MLS. I love MLS more than I could ever love some English so-called Premier League, or some Spanish La Liga, or, yes, even the Italian Serie A.

Part of it is simple patriotism. There is half a Canadian in the Premier League right now, none in either La Liga or the Serie A, and six in Major League Soccer not counting Toronto. Partially, it's the quality of play: are the players as good as the stars of Manchester United? Of course not! But they're still pretty damned good, and the parity in the league means that there are hardly any Chelsea - Aston Villa 90-minute torture sessions for the neutral.

Also, I can actually watch them at a sane hour of day. I love soccer, but I don't usually love it enough to get up at 4:30 AM PST on a Saturday to watch Blackburn take on Tottenham or whoever's up this week.

So this extended weekend was a pretty good one for me. MLS First Kick, Philadelphia at Seattle was... well, it was a dreary game and the Union proved why they're everybody's favourite for the basement. But the uniforms were sharp and, in defiance of critical opinion, the turf at Qwest Field looked perfectly playable to me. This didn't stop the usual suspects from letting fly with invective directed at the plastic - football is meant to be played on grass, and so forth. I've seen bad turf. All those Toronto fans have seen bad turf. That was not bad turf. Hell, the grass at Commonwealth Stadium was worse than that turf.

The other highlight of the weekend was, of course, Toronto's visit to Columbus. It had everything we've grown to love and expect from MLS, all pleasantly rolled into one ninety-minute package. There were moments of sublime skill and beauty. There was a half-empty stadium. There was 29-year-old Julian De Guzman playing like he was a thousand, and there was 1,000-year-old Guillermo Barros Schelotto playing like he was twenty-nine. Both sides complained like hell about how much the refereeing helped the other team, as per usual. Plus, Toronto got pummeled, which isn't news either.

(There's another post in this, but oh my god does Toronto look like they'll be bad this year. I'm genuinely not sure that Toronto is as good as Montreal man-for-man, even on paper. Are they even the favourites for the Voyageurs Cup?)

There were other games on the weekend, but who cares? None of them were exactly thrill-a-minute action rides. Irritatingly, one of the best matches of the weekend was the Madrid derby in La Liga - I say irritatingly because eww, La Liga. For a 3-2 game the result was only in doubt for the first half before Real asserted their dominance, but it was still a well-played exhibition of soccer, damn them. Atlético just needed one more goal against Real, so look for them to offer a million dollars for Gabe Gala.

The best viewing of the weekend, however, came on Sunday afternoon. I had a web stream of GOL TV on taking up space, and what should come on but some Brazilian action between Corinthians and Sao Paolo. It was a preposterously back-and-forth affair: Corinthians dominated heavily early, taking leads of 2-0 and 3-1 before Sao Paolo stormed back to level affairs at 3-3. With time dying, Corinthians finally snatched the winner, and unusually in a seven-goal match every last strike was of sublime, highlight-of-the-night calibre. Even fat Ronaldo looked into it, setting up the first Corinthians goal and occasionally deigning to run full-out before being substituted.

So I guess that's the last reason I love MLS, actually. Great football can come from anywhere.