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Crew shivered by Timbers as Sky turn off Hollywood glitz

By Billy Weir

Published 10/12/2015

Star man: Former Aston Villa man Liam Ridgewell looks on, wondering what the big shiny thing is
Star man: Former Aston Villa man Liam Ridgewell looks on, wondering what the big shiny thing is

It was the MLS Cup final on Sunday evening and given all the big stars that play over in the US now, you would have thought Sky would have given it the Hollywood treatment.

You'd be very wrong, as the programme almost slipped on unnoticed as Sky clearly took the huff that Steven Gerrard, Robbie Keane, David Villa and Frank Lampard had selfishly decided not to be involved at the crucial stage of the season.

It wasn't so much Hollywood as Holywood Arches and so it was a man with a strange voice who began to speak over pictures as not even Thierry Henry could be persuaded that watching Portland Timbers take on Columbus Crew was worth switching on the lights of a studio for.

"It all comes down to this. It may not have the glitz, glamour or superstars but it does have history, tradition and most notably, passion," said the man with no name.

"They've played their part as bridesmaids in the past but now it's their turn to walk down the aisle for real," he added but it felt weird that they had been jilted by Sky with not even Scott Minto available to give them away.

History is a funny thing in America - just ask Donald Trump. They don't have much, hence everything is fast-forwarded into epoch-making in the blink of an eye, so there was much wailing that this was the '20th edition of the MLS Cup'.

Let's put this into context, the Fifa computer game is now in its 22nd edition, and the two teams with the names that sound more like characters from Game of Thrones have a tradition stretching away back to 2009 for the Timbers and a heady 1994 for Crew - it's hardly Wanderers v Royal Engineers.

Maybe I was being unduly harsh, perhaps Thierry had been flown to the States to take his seat alongside Clint in the commentary box? That would be no.

"I'm Callum Williams," said the man now with a name. "And joining me is John Spencer."

I know what you're thinking, is he (a) not a snooker player and (b) no longer with us - and you would be correct in both of those but this was John Spencer who used to play for Rangers and one of the many managers in the long and illustrious history of the Timbers.

If it's big names you want, and this is where the MLS becomes a little Trumpish in that they should maybe tone things down a tad, the biggest star on show was Liam Ridgewell, former Aston Villa 'star'. Let's face it, if he isn't good enough to play for Villa anymore he shouldn't be included anywhere near a sentence with 'star' in it.

"Who will become the hero of the hour and a half? It is the peak of America's soccer summit," mused Wilson, but for Crew keeper Steve Clarke (no, not that one) his hopes of 90 minutes from glory didn't even last 30 seconds as he made a right hames of a back pass, as they say in Ohio, and promptly clattered it off a piece of a Timbers player and the ball flew into the net.

Things could only get better. They didn't. Six minutes later it was 2-0 as the Timber Army went into raptures when Rodney Wallace (no, not that one) scored a second but by then I had been distracted by one of his team-mates with possibly the best name since the beginning of time, or 1776 depending on where you're from.

Darlington Nagbe part-Liberian, part-American, part wet and windy place in the north of England, was very impressive and cheered on by his brothers, Hartlepool and Whitley Bay, while his other sibling, Carlisle, was busy with a mop and Desmond in Cumbria.

The Columbus Crew would have been right at home in Blighty, but despite pulling a goal back they were left with that sinking feeling and would probably drown their sorrows with a few Pintas that evening. That joke can be traced back to 1492 - now that's tradition.

"Ridgewell with a gargantuan header away," screamed Wilson, and let's face it we all know a few of them, and the rock steady defender was just too good for the Crew.

That joke dates back to 1984 when the MLS or Darlington hadn't even been thought of.

The Timbers weren't even saplings back then but as Wilson concluded before we slipped back out of view on Sky, "historic, euphoric scenes to savour for a lifetime for Portland Timbers".

No doubt they were dancing on the log-strewn streets of Oregon on Sunday night, another glorious chapter in seven years of history. I have pants older than that, although in fairness, I have ones older than the Crew as well. A bit like US history and hyperbole, best give them a wide berth.

Belfast Telegraph

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