Wednesday night, while the attention of the sports world was focused on Game 6 of the World Series, or the first full night of NBA games or the NHL or some random college football game, the 2013 MLS playoffs kicked off in earnest with the Seattle Sounders topping the Colorado Rapids 2-0.
The Sounders almost blew it late, due to a total brain-fart by keeper Michael Gspurning. The Austrian came a few feet out of his box to catch a long ball, earning a straight red card in the process. The Rapids couldn’t capitalize and the Sounders tacked on an insurance goal to advance. Former U.S. international (and all-around great dude) Marcus Hahnemann should start in Gspurning’s absence.
This sets up a playoff matchup MLS was probably hoping for: Seattle vs. Portland. The Pacific Northwest rivalry has been hailed from afar as the best in North America and now it has the added stakes of two games that will actually mean something. Count on all sorts of crazy homemade signs and tifos by both sets of fans.
Perhaps this is the kind of game MLS needs to kick its anemic television ratings in the butt. There’s been enough chatter about this rivalry that maybe casual fans might have a slight inkling to want to watch.
Problem is the first game of the two-leg playoff series is on 10 p.m. Saturday night on the East Coast — not exactly prime time. Maybe some younger fans will catch it out of the corner of their eyes at the bar. The second leg is next Thursday, except kickoff isn’t until 11 p.m. on the East Coast. Both games are on NBCSN, but even with the terrific rivalry between the clubs and their supporters its going to be hard to move the Nielsen needle with those kickoff times.
MLS also wins since it’s highest paid player — U.S. international Clint Dempsey — lives to play another day.
Even so, this appealing matchup figures to struggle to help MLS cross its final hurdle — making an impact in the TV rating department.