Wahl Q & A
'Bang-bang moments of great skill' decide MLS Cup
The following is a question-and-answer session CNNSI.com conducted with Sports Illustrated soccer writer Grant Wahl, who was in Columbus, Ohio, on Sunday to cover MLS Cup 2001:
Question: What do you think made the difference in the match?
Answer: A couple of brilliant strikes. Those were two great goals that San Jose scored. Landon Donovan hit his on a half-volley, first time, on a sweet cross from the right side. As [coach Frank] Yallop pointed out after the game, the last four goals Donovan scored have all been world class.
DeRosario, I got a feeling almost like when Preki is going against somebody or he's just coming into a game, and a defender doesn't realize he's going to go to his left every time. You get the feeling [Danny] Califf didn't realize what DeRosario was about to do, that he had that in him.
Q: And he also didn't get the help that we've seen most defenders get throughout the playoffs. He was stuck in a one-on-one.
A: Exactly. [L.A. coach] Sigi Schmid mentioned that after the game, that he was surprised there was no help.
You had a situation where a guy is fresh -- DeRosario coming off the bench -- and if you watched the Earthquakes enough this season, you know that he's going to shoot.
I got the sense that Califf might have overplayed a little or been a little surprised by the move DeRosario made -- just a great, great move to his right.
Q: It seems that Landon Donovan made the right choice coming back to the U.S. from Germany, wouldn't you say?
A: Yeah, that's what my story in the magazine is going to be about. You look back at how much he was suffering over there not getting to play first-division soccer, and you worried that a rare American talent might get wasted. It's happened before. Sigi mentioned to me Steve Snow. ... You don't want to see this talent wasted. And he's got a long way to go.
But this is where he should be. You couldn't think of any better outcome when he decided to come back.
During the playoffs, he was the best player in the league. He scored five goals in six games, great goals, and lived up to a ridiculous amount of hype.
Q: In your postseason award voting, you picked the Fusion's Ray Hudson over Coach of the Year winner Frank Yallop. If that voting were done today, would you vote the same?
No, if you include the playoffs, you have to pick Frank Yallop. I thought it was neck-and-neck between those guys anyway. I gave it to Hudson because he had the best record in the regular season.
But Yallop comes in three days before the draft... and all the moves he made were right on. Look at the new guys on the Earthquakes this year -- Jeff Agoos, Donovan, Troy Dayak comes back and does well.
I can't believe I'm sitting here saying that San Jose is the league champion. It just doesn't sound right.
Q: And DeRosario paid off as well.
A: Oh yeah, of course, here's a guy who comes from the A-League and would be starting on most teams now.
Q: Who was your man of the match?
A: Equally, I'd give it to Donovan and DeRosario. This wasn't one of those games where... one team deserved to win because they had the run of play. What won it was some very bang-bang moments of great skill. It's great to see that in MLS.
Q: It doesn't look like there's going to be a drop-off next year either.
A: You hope not. You hope next year that more young American players, not just Americans, that good players stay healthy. I think MLS did alright this season given that they lost Josh Wolff and Clint Mathis [to injury], who could really be big stars in this league.
Q: Would you say that MLS commissioner Don Garber met his goal of seeing progress this year in MLS?
A: I think the commissioner needs to focus on getting stadiums built. My feeling is that, you look at the league as a whole, steps are being made as far as bringing young Americans here, seeing them do well and develop and perform on the international stage.
So much of this league, from the commissioner's perspective, has to be based on economics. Given the economic of the past year, treading water is not a terrible thing. And they're treading water right now, economically.