October 2, 2013
IT'S NOT FOREIGN TO THEM
Englishmen Sam, Wright-Phillips pick the MLS Cup over the Supporters Shield
By Kristian R. Dyer
|Lloyd Sam: “But you don't get a ring for the Supporters Shield. You don't get a ring for the Supporters Shield. I guess I've been Americanized at this point.”
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
BigAppleSoccer.com Contributing Editor
HANOVER, N.J. – Three years ago, former Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe created a stir when he said that he valued the Supporters Shield more than the MLS Cup.
The Shield, given to the team with the best regular season record, would rightly appeal to Backe's European mindset where the playoffs that lead to the MLS Cup are – pardon the pun – a foreign concept.
Backe's viewpoint was shared by many of the European players on the team at that time, who understood and appreciated the playoff system but embraced the regular season and the Supporters Shield a bit more fully.
Red Bulls midfielder Lloyd Sam is in his first full year in Major League Soccer and he teases that he is “Americanized” in his view of the priority of the cup or the shield.
“The MLS Cup, that's the big cup to win here. The Supporters Shield? You win the league but I've been watching American sports like NBA and everything. Winning the playoffs is the main thing and that's the main thing for us,” Sam told BigAppleSoccer.com on Tuesday.
Then he rationalized it by talking about the "bling" involved.
“But you don't get a ring for the Supporters Shield. You don't get a ring for the Supporters Shield," he said. "I guess I've been Americanized at this point.”
Sam laughed a bit but it is a point with merit.
It is a rare debate in sports, since every other American sports league uses a playoff format to crown its champion and the regular season is merely posturing for a better seed for the playoffs. But in MLS, with eyes always glanced at the bigger European leagues, some fans align themselves with Backe's view that the true champion is the team that proved itself over a rigorous MLS season.
Any team can get hot at the right time and ride a streak from a bland regular season to a spot in the MLS Cup. Look no further than the Red Bulls in 2008 (the reached the final before losing to the Columbus Crew, 3-1).
But for forward Bradley Wright-Phillips, who like Sam is an Englishman, the Cup still has a certain allure. Wright-Phillips signed with the club in August, but like Sam he hasn't had time to be “Americanized.” But he still has bought into the playoff culture.
“I like things like this, playoffs. It's what America is all about,” Wright-Phillips said.
“That's the biggest thing you can win – the playoffs. I'm sure that's the biggest thing. It's good to win anything. In football, you want to win anything and everything.”