XI: The weekend of May 24th

Sergio Ramos celebrates following his stoppage-time equalizer in the Champions League Final

-Two minutes. That’s all that separated Atletico Madrid from an improbable double, the Champions League in addition to their La Liga win. If you put down a $10 bet on said double at the beginning of the season, you were two minutes away from $60,000. Diego Godín’s header, and Iker Casillas’ mistake gave Atletico a 1-0 lead. For most of the second half, it seemed like Atletico’s staunch defending would be enough to hang on. It helped that Real Madrid’s best chances fell to Gareth Bale, who had a couple horror misses. But in the 93rd minute, on a set piece, an area of strength for Atletico, Sergio Ramos found space. His header just inside the far post was only an equalizer, bu it didn’t feel like that.

-In extra time, Atletico capitulated. The exhaustion from a game spent chasing Real, and a season spent succeeding on all fronts with a small squad, became incredibly obvious. Juanfran began limping his way around his right back position. Angel di Maria, who was excellent throughout, unlocked the Atletico defense, and when his shot was repelled by Thibaut Courtois, Gareth Bale headed the rebound home. Marcelo made it 3-1, waltzing through a defense too tired to move and firing a powerful shot that perhaps Courtois should have saved.  A Cristiano Ronaldo penalty simply added insult to injury.

-This is la Decima, Real Madrid’s tenth European crown. No other team has won as many (AC Milan is in second with seven), and no other team defines itself through the tournament like Real. Ronaldo, though he didn’t have a great game, cemented his spot in the club’s history though this win. Gareth Bale’s winner validates his transfer fee in a way that nothing else could (Tottenham also gets £20 million thanks to Real’s win and the terms of Bale’s and Luka Modric’s transfers). They will talk about this team in Madrid for a long time.

-I thought the pairing of Gus Johnson and Eric Wynalda had a decent game, but certainly not a great one. Johnson provided the excitement needed for Ramos’ equalizer and Bale’s goal, but otherwise fell into some of his usual mistakes. He spent much of the early game providing unnecessary backstory to each player who touched the ball. Within 10 minutes he referenced Modric’s transfer from Tottenham, Courtois’ loan deal with Chelsea, and a host of other “fun facts” that are so common in American broadcasts. It is good that he’s done his research, but it misses the point.  As Tim Marchman said on Twitter, Johnson was “so scared of saying something dumb he’s just reciting Wikipedia instead of calling the game!” However, I thought he got better on this front as the game progressed. 

-The second most important game of the weekend was the Championship playoff final between Queens Park Rangers and Derby County. Harry Redknapp and QPR will return to the Premier League after just a year in the second division, with Bobby Zamora’s dramatic 90th minute winner providing the difference over Derby County.

-Cascadia, as it often does, provided the most hectic match of the MLS weekend. Vancouver came storming out against their Seattle rivals, dominating the opening ten minutes, but the Sounders withstood the pressure and eventually got the game’s first goal. Vancouver scored the next two, one beautifully and one less so, before a controversial penalty The Whitecaps have five draws, the second most in the Western Conference. Three of those were 2-2 draws. Vancouver is a team whose attacking talent (skilled youngsters like Erik Hurtado, Gershon Koffie, and Kekuta Manneh) is too often outweighed by shaky defensive work.

-Controversy reigned in Kansas City on Friday night. Toronto had a red card and a penalty given against them, but managed to fight back and equalize twice against the defending champs. for SKC, it’s their lone point from their last three matches, but they will feel that they should have won this.

-Landon Donovan is not happy about being left off the USMNT’s World Cup squad. He said as much during interviews on Saturday, and he proved it with two goals (his first since October) on Sunday. Donovan had been sitting on 134 career MLS goals (not counting playoffs), and his first goal against the Philadelphia Union gave him the league’s all-time scoring record. I don’t think that Klinsmann rejects the decision, but the extra attention Donovan seems determined to bring to it might make him grumble.

-Clarence Goodson also made a public comments disagreeing with his exclusion from the World Cup squad. The 32-year-old San Jose Earthquakes defender said that Klinsmann was “unwilling” to provide an explanation for this decision; in training, Geoff Cameron has been alongside Matt Besler in central defense. Cameron typically plays right back with his club side, Stoke City.

-Reports from USMNT camp also have Fabian Johnson practicing with the first team at right back. Johnson has been thought of as a potential candidate for the left side of midfield, but Klinsmann has other plans. Right back promises to be the critical position against Ronaldo and Portugal, Johnson will have all the eyes on him if he keeps that spot.

-Chelsea sold David Luiz to Paris Saint-Germain, who have responded to a £20million Financial Fair Play fine by spending a reported £50m on the Brazilian defender. Chelsea are expected to use that money on Diego Costa.


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