Belfast Telegraph

It's not Real, it's just a Sporting fantasy

By Billy Weir

Ah, the good old US of A, big, brash, loud and still just not getting football right.

I hope you notice that's 'football', and not 'soccer' as the MLS Cup reached its climax at the weekend courtesy of ESPN via BT Sport. I suppose it couldn't be the MLF Cup as that would have produced a huge amount of hits from teenage dirtbags across the States.

We are to be grateful that Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake – I promise you I have not made those names up – weren't taking part in the World Cup final as seems to be the way when two American teams get to a deciding match.

Back to the names. They are truly awful. Take a random European prefix and thrust it before a city and hey presto you have a new team or franchise, or worse, get the city and then just add the first item you see in the supermarket, such as New York Red Bulls or Los Angeles Galaxy.

You can only imagine what Becks will call his new team. I can just see it now, as Queen of the Miami run out or the Florida Fig Rolls take to the field ...

There was some familiarity though in the coverage as two of the five US footballers you can name were on the presenting panel in the shape of Alexi Lalas and Kasey Keller, although it was hard to be sure it was them as they were wearing every item of clothing they owned as it was a tad nippy in Kansas.

Presenter Max Bretos, a man with many shiny teeth, stopped chattering them just long enough to tell us that this was the coldest final ever at 20 degrees. Seems okay to me, but that's in that fancy Fahrenheit, give me old fashioned Celsius any day. Not sure what it was in that, suffice to say it was Baltic.

Commentator Adrian Healey, an ex-pat who adopts the Alan Partridge style, was our guide to the match, and remarked that these were 'two teams who looked to the grandest tradition of the global game when naming their clubs.' And made a right hames of it. Why can't they just have normal names, like Distillery or Crusaders ...

Then again when there was a sign saying 'Welcome to Blue Hell' I thought Windsor Park had been renamed, but that was soon shaken by a hellish sight in pink, as Sporting keeper Jimmy Neilsen burst onto our screens. Imagine, if you can, that Brigitte Neilson and Julian Simmons had a child.

Apparently, Adrian told us, Jimmy had been spotted on YouTube and was signed up, while facing him in the other goal was a skateboarding dog and neither of them had much to do on a pitch that was rock hard and if only someone had some Real salt to help thaw things out ...

Then came a goal for the visitors, yes Utah's finest, and the temptation to call themselves the Saints must have been huge, were playing in Kansas, and striker Alvaro Saborio scored, a man we were told who was no stranger to the big occasions, having played in the Costa Rican Cup final. Oh, THAT Alvaro Saborio.

But the romance of the cup was alive and well, and who else but a Frenchman who once played for Gretna to provide it, as Aurelien Collin popped up with an equaliser that took us to over-time and some PKs. Sorry, extra-time and the taking of kicks from the penalty mark.

After nine penalties each the teams were tied at six-apiece, and then big Collin came up and coolly slotted home, before Lovell Palmer hammered the ball off the bar and that was that, a real disappointing end for Real cheered by the sporting Sporting fans. Confused? I am, I'm away to watch Atletico Ahoghill take on Borussia Ballywalter.

Belfast Telegraph


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