What was supposed to have been a battle for the right to play for the SuperLiga final instead turned into, well, a battle.
Atlante vs. New England in a battle royale. Vilar versus Heaps. Atlante assistant versus Albright. Disgrace versus Revolution.
The match itself was not the greatest display of soccer. Shalrie Joseph's early goal made the rest of the game pretty much anticlimactic. But what wasn't expected was the way Atlante went down swinging... and gouging and chest-butting and grabbing and clutching, all of it dirty and shameful.
Now, you've got to keep in mind what kind of club you're dealing with. Atlante does not represent the typical Mexican club. Atlante are for all intents and purposes a bottom-feeder that rose up and had one great season. They won the Clausura 2007 title but probably won't contend for a title in another decade or three. To lump Atlante in with Pachuca or America or Cruz Azul and others in the same class would be a disgrace to Mexico's upper crust.
What Atlante did was shameful. It was a black eye on a tournament that's loaded with them, that could barely stand to have been dealt with another negative blow. A million-dollar tournament that isn't quite, that is played on below-average fields, that has had questionable calls at best, conspiracy theory-raising calls at worst, a tournament that now will be associated with poor smortsmanship from one of its semifinalists.
Verbal jabs and accusations from south of the border will be harsh. We'll probably hear 'The tournament was staged for MLS teams and the refs are on MLS' side' or the like.
Now, none of that excuses Atlante's behavior. Nothing can justify Federico Vilar knocking Jay Heaps down with a chest blow. Or the gutless assistant coach slamming Chris Albright's face. Or the mad scramble from player after player well after the final whistle was blown. In total, five Atlante players saw red.
Let's hope in future editions of this tournament that cooler heads prevail and that the issues listed above improve, mainly the refereeing. Until then, we can hope the display we saw from Atlante was an aberration.