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Lessons from SuperLiga final

Donovan is mortal, brittle Becks, ranting coach, more

Posted: Thursday August 30, 2007 8:03AM; Updated: Thursday August 30, 2007 11:00AM
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David Beckham can't hide his frustration after injuring his right knee on Wednesday.
David Beckham can't hide his frustration after injuring his right knee on Wednesday.
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CARSON, Calif. -- It was an inaugural SuperLiga final that had just about everything. A surreal last-second bicycle-kick equalizer. A goalkeeper (to say nothing of the re-injured David Beckham) fighting back post-game tears. A money penalty-taker failing to convert the trophy-winning spot kick. And, not least, a press conference carpeted by F-bombs from (who else?) a mild-mannered Canadian.

And when it finally ended, as the clock was nearing 2 a.m. on the East Coast, Mexican champion Pachuca (club motto: We Win Everything) had beaten the Los Angeles Galaxy (club motto: 26 Games in 93 Days) on penalties, breaking a 1-1 stalemate and concluding a SuperLiga tournament that set a dauntingly high bar for those to follow.

Which brings us to Five Things We Learned From the SuperLiga final:

1. Landon Donovan is mortal from the penalty spot after all: All year long Donovan has converted important penalty kicks for the U.S. national team and for the Galaxy. But with a chance to end the game and earn the Galaxy a $1 million first-place prize, Donovan fired his spot kick high to his left--within reach of the 'do-ragged Pachuca goalkeeper Miguel Calero, who made the save. When L.A.'s Abel Xavier sent his sixth-round penalty wide of the net, it sealed the Galaxy's doom. "The most disappointing thing was I told myself I wasn't going to get caught up in everything," Donovan said. "I've never taken a penalty to win a game like that in a penalty shootout. So I told myself not to get caught up. Usually I slow myself down and take a look at the goalie. But in that moment I just panicked a little bit, and that's the worst place I could have put it. Maybe if I put it low it sneaks in."

2. David Beckham may just need to shut things down for a few weeks (or more): Beckham's injury misfortunes only got worse when he had to be removed from the game with what was called a right knee sprain after he and Pachuca's Fernando Salazar collided on the ball at full speed in the first half. "I've just gone from one thing to another thing," said Beckham, who appeared to be fighting away tears after the game. "So maybe it's a sign for me to just say, 'I need to rest and get it right and don't come back until it's right.'" Beckham said he'd undergo an MRI on Thursday, but he sounded like a man who could end up having to rest for several weeks.

3. Frank Yallop earned his Howard Beale moment: The embattled Galaxy coach is mad as hell, and he's not going to take it anymore. After keeping a stiff upper lip about the Galaxy's death-march schedule, the normally easygoing Canadian finally dropped a few F-bombs on the podium in the post-game press conference. "I could go over why we come out flat, why we look like we're not interested," Yallop said, "but guys are f---in' knackered, to be honest. That's the truth. But I'll tell you what: They kept going. They're f---ed ... All the crap that we've been f---in' through, I'm telling you, it's been difficult to f---in' deal with -- sorry to swear -- but it's been hard. But they kept going, and that makes me proud." And presto, MLS has its Denny Green-quality YouTube moment. Yallop may or may not keep his job in the coming days, but you get the sense he felt liberated by finally letting things fly. And you know what? I say more power to him. You can only hold things in for so long.

4. The loss dampened brilliant individual performances by L.A.'s Chris Klein and Joe Cannon: Klein's remarkable injury-time bicycle-kick goal to tie the game was one for the ages. "I don't even know if I could do one of those on my bed," he said afterward, and he was probably right. Meanwhile. Cannon was everywhere for the Galaxy, making a series of did-you-see-that? saves. Later, his voice barely above a whisper, Cannon would call it the most devastating loss he has ever suffered as a professional.

5. Something ain't right with the prize money: There was a lot of talk about the $1 million prize offered to the SuperLiga's winning team, but here's something odd: While the Pachuca players said their portion of the winning pot would total $350,000, MLS had already mandated that the Galaxy players would only receive $150,000 of the cool million had they won the game. I'm told that one reason MLS gave was because it didn't want the SuperLiga-winning player pool to exceed the player pool that goes to the MLS Cup winners (which is $165,000). Nonsense. The MLS players should have been allowed to negotiate their shares with their own team's management. In the end, the Galaxy players will still receive $100,000 for finishing second, while the Pachuca players announced they would donate part of their winnings to those affected by Hurricane Dean.

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