The MLS playoff system works
Updated: Wednesday October 17, 2001 3:25 PM
By Ridge Mahoney, Soccer America
The format may not make much sense and a pivotal third game turned into a form of Jeopardy! for one team, but the MLS playoffs do ratchet up the intensity.
Three series went to three games, and the Metros-Galaxy series went further, needing eight minutes of a tiebreaker to send the Galaxy onto the semis.
"First-to-five-points" is indeed bizarre, but the MLS format does afford the team with home-field advantage sufficient opportunity to prevail.
Los Angeles couldn't win its opener at home, but with the prospect of a third game back at the Rose Bowl, it knew its hopes wouldn't expire in the Meadowlands, where it lost 4-1.
That third game -- and tiebreaker -- provided a dramatic broadcast for ESPN2, which also carried the first game of the series.
Not much else reached a national television audience, however. Telemundo carried Game 1 of the Wizards-Fusion series. That was it.
No telecast -- national, regional or local -- could be arranged for Game 2 of the Fusion-Wizards series. Unforgivable!
The quarterfinals show that regular-season form isn't necessarily a reliable guide to the playoffs.
The Quakes couldn't beat the Crew in two regular-season meetings but swept past Columbus with 3-1 and 3-0 wins. Defender Jimmy Conrad replaced Zak Ibsen at right back and helped shut down Jeff Cunningham, now headed on loan to Bayer Leverkusen.
Eight red cards were issued in the 11 games, and few of them seemed unwarranted.
The Galaxy's Greg Vanney, ejected in Game 2, had to sit out the third game and the tiebreaker, which prompted his coach, Sigi Schmid, to argue "Double Jeopardy."
But the Galaxy won Game 3 and also "Final Jeopardy" -- which it played without the properly ejected Danny Califf -- to advance.
Once the season is over, the first-to-five format can be reexamined. It certainly ain't perfect.
But the playoffs work, spotty attendances and TV travails be damned.
Ridge Mahoney is a senior editor at Soccer America magazine.