The second most famous soccer tournament in the world, The Euro Championship, wrapped up in rather underwhelming fashion Sunday. The favorites Spain beat a boring, outmatched Italy team 4 to 0.
Even though Spain notched 4 goals in the finals, the match as a whole continued a disappointing Euro trend of lethargic, unexciting games. Scoreless draws and negative defensive play were all too common. Matches which were supposed to feature the best soccer in the world left viewers bored and disappointed. Nearly every game, I sat in front of my TV ready to watch world cup level soccer. Time and time again I felt as if I had wasted 2 hours of my life.
Stateside, MLS teams were also in action. Eventhough I am a pretty big soccer fan, I gave little thought to the puny MLS games during the major European tournament. However my eyes were opened after I mistakenly kept the TV on after one of the Euro games ended. When I came back to the TV, to my delight, good soccer was being played. A replay of Euros? Previous World Cup highlights? No, to my surprise, it was an MLS game. My eyes lit up when I saw free flowing play, numerous singing fans, and multiple goals. Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers was everything I was looking for. I was smitten. The game in Portland finished with the home side winning an exciting 2-1 match. Tons of skill was displayed by both sides, leading to three exciting goals, capped off by a curler into the net by Portland. Aggressive tactics were used which led to exciting free flowing soccer.
As exciting as this match was, it was simply an opening act for Friday's California Classico.
The most recent edition of the CaliClassico, played Friday at Stanford Stadium, blew away the entire Euro tournament. I know, I know, you think I'm crazy. But I was there, I saw it with my own eyes. It was initially hard for me to believe too. Believe it or not, the CaliClassico was better than any Euro game, and confirmed my hunch that MLS play recently has been better then the Euro as a whole.
Start with the scoreline: San Jose 4 - LA Galaxy 3.
7 goals!!! Not 2, not 3, not 4. Seven. Sweet Jesus that is fun to watch. No more Euro 0-0 draws, penalty kicks, or 1-0 boring finishes. And they were not just basic goals. Free kicks, back heels, headers, breakaways, long shots. It had it all.
David Beckham himself even bent in a free kick. How good is that?
Let's break it down more. This game was played in front of 50,300 fans. The MLS sold out a large football stadium for a regular season game. It wasn't just 50k, it was a loud 50k. The 1906 Ultras, San Jose's die hard section, was loud and proud the entire game. It was a great atmosphere, equal to an European match.
Then you had the controversy, the passion, the rivalry. These two teams flat out don't like each other. Several fights almost broke out throughout the match. Elbows were thrown. Dangerous tackles made. It came to a climax when Beckham drop kicked a ball into an injured player. After the game, Beckham and several players had words. Beckham also took some anger out on the San Jose mascot. That is entertainment.
I know the MLS is a long way from the Premier League. Soccer in the United States is still a work in progress. But anyone who watched both the Euro final and the Cali Classico knows. This weekend, the Cali Classico was the best soccer in the planet.
Highlights from the game:
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