It was terrible. No doubt about it. I almost feel bad for suggesting that you guys watch it. The play was sloppy, the atmosphere was cold, and the weather conditions made for a bitter, choppy game. In all honesty, the game we saw last night was no where near the quality you can expect from future CONCACAF Champions League or MLS games.
In fact, since we have so many new Timbers fans in this community, I just want to run a few points by you as to why, exactly, last night's game was a grueling, often boring, soccer game. Hopefully when the real season begins you won't this game keep you from enjoying future Timbers' matches:1. Despite it being a real CCL game, both the Columbus Crew and Real Salt Lake are still in pre-season mode.
In general, as it is with other sports, you can expect pre-season games to be gritty, almost clumsy games. It's one of the prime reasons why I believe no Timbers pre-season games have been broadcast yet. For a soccer player, coming back from even a couple months of no training and no playing can really hamper the technicality of the game, basically meaning they won't be as sharp as they would ordinarily be.
Real Salt Lake and the Columbus Crew have both only trained for approximately a month now since their respective season's came to an end last November. Columbus, in particular, has had a busy off season bringing in many more new players than the average returning MLS team. As such, the team hasn't quite gelled yet.
Once we hit mid-April in the regular season you'll begin to see teams really coming together and playing their best. Unfortunately, the CONCACAF scheduling puts our teams at a slight disadvantage in this respect.
2. The weather had an immediate and permanent affect on the players, the game, and even the ball.
We knew leading up to last night's CCL game that the weather was going to make things a little more interesting than a typical soccer game and, unfortunately, by interesting I mean worse. It was almost immediately noticeable that players weren't comfortable playing in the snow (as they shouldn't be given that we are a summer league).
Beyond even that, the below-freezing temperatures themselves probably didn't help the players out at all. I'm not a physician, but I know when I ride my bike or go running in the cold (like this morning!) I'm more sluggish than I would ordinarily be at 50-60 degree weather.
3. Clearly the referee needed a bit of training as well prior to the game.
As you may well know, the referee got a little over-zealous last night and was tossing out red cards in the second half like they were free candy. I won't call out the referee directly as having made bad judgements (even though MLS refs certainly aren't the most respected in the world), but I will say that this amount of ejections and yellow cards is unusual in a typical MLS match.
Bottom line, the referee had a direct impact on the game itself. With less players on the field there's less movement, less interaction, and generally a worse game altogether.
So, with these points in mind, I hope you'll reserve judging MLS or the quality of our league based on this game along. Even future CCL games should be much more entertaining and not as gritty.