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Thursday Kickaround

*A look at tonight's MLS playoff match between the Crew and RSL from a Columbus angle and a Salt Lake perspective. TV coverage begins at 8 p.m. on ESPN2. The defending champion Crew faces a one-goal deficit in the two-leg series.

*In a column about MLS fining DCU President Kevin Payne for critical comments he made concerning playing styles, Soccer America's Paul Gardner says:

"You could argue that he was wrong to single out New England, Colorado and Real Salt Lake as being dourly defensive teams -- maybe he should have chosen other examples. But by drawing attention to the fact that there is too much tritely defensive soccer in MLS, and that this is highly damaging to the league, Payne is spot on. Which makes Garber's response over-sensitive. He's doing what is never a good idea -- shooting the messenger who brings the bad news, instead of facing up to the bad news."

*Americans abroad:
GK Tim Howard and Everton vs. Benfica
MF Clint Dempsey, F Eddie Johnson and Fulham at Roma
GK Dom Cervi and Celtic at Hamburg
D Jonathan Spector 82 minutes in West Ham's 2-1 win over Aston Villa
GK Brad Friedel 90 for Aston Villa
MF DaMarcus Beasley in 18, didn't play in Rangers' 1-1 tie at Unirea Urziceni
MF Jose Francisco Torres 66 in Pachuca's 3-1 loss to Cruz Azul
D Edgar Castillo not in 18 in Tigres' 1-0 loss at Queretaro
D Michael Orozco 90 in San Luis' 1-1 tie at Tecos
D Marco Vidal 90 in Indios' 2-2 tie at Chivas

*While Virginia Tech advanced to the semifinals of the ACC women's tournament, Virginia (9-5-5) and Maryland (12-5-2) were eliminated and will now await the NCAA tournament announcement Monday night. ... The Georgetown men lost at home in the first round of the Big East tournament, falling to DePaul on penalty kicks after a 2-2 tie. The Hoyas (9-8-2) went 1-5-1 in their final seven games to fall out of NCAA contention.

*Fox Soccer Channel will provide live coverage of the USA friendly at Slovakia on Nov. 14, starting at 10 a.m. ET.

For today's TV offerings.....

*Soccer on TV:
U-17 World Cup, Mexico-South Korea 9:55 a.m. Galavision
Europa League, Hamburg-Celtic 1 p.m. GolTV
Europa League, Villarreal-Lazio 3 p.m. GolTV
MLS playoffs, Columbus-Real Salt Lake 8 p.m. ESPN2
Europa League, Everton-Benfica 8 p.m. GolTV
Mexico, Pumas-America 10 p.m. Telemundo

By Steve Goff  |  November 5, 2009; 8:27 AM ET
Categories:  Americans Abroad , College Soccer , MLS , TV  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Poll: United's Next Coach
Next: Weekend TV Listings


Another excuse for Paul Gardner to scribe an editorial that exhibits his "latin flair" fetish.

Seriously, the man became irrelevant two decades ago.

Posted by: Longgoneposter | November 5, 2009 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Say what you want about Paul Gardner, but he is substantially correct about MLS soccer. All too often, the soccer just is not that good, and that is damaging to the league. I know I'm not going to subscribe to Direct Kick anymore. There are a few decent games here and there, but there are way too many games which are just plain dull or unwatchably bad. It just isn't worth the money. I'm a DC United fan and I'll watch any game they are in but as for being an *MLS* fan I'm gonna wait until the soccer gets better.

Posted by: Ron16 | November 5, 2009 9:06 AM | Report abuse

What time is Fulham/Roma EST?

Posted by: DadRyan | November 5, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

To echo Ron16, as much of a soccer fan as I am, I generally wouldn't watch a random MLS game the way I'd watch a random Premier League or even a random NFL game. No matter how Garber spins it, the casual fan will not be converted by a Colorado v. New England game.

That said, I'm also never particularly interested in Serie A games when they're on FSC either. Unless you have a team of choice, I find that league pretty dull.

Posted by: M__N | November 5, 2009 9:25 AM | Report abuse

now would mls and garber would go after paul gardner for his critisim to get some fine money for their happy hour beer cost?

Posted by: DCUnitedFootball | November 5, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Care to phrase that in the form of...English?

Posted by: Reignking | November 5, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

While Gardner and Payne both have points, can someone please show me the league that doesn't have unwatchable games at times? It's sad that what could be a real, productive discussion about where the league needs to go is lost in a pissing match about whether Kevin should have been fined or not.

Stop whining about tactics and talk about defenders who can do nothing but hoof it upfield. Stop complaining about Don Garber and talk about how roster sizes and salaries are more important issues for the future of the game in this CBA than free agency and guaranteed contracts. Quit moaning about college coaches and point to how teams in the developmental academy system outside of the MLS umbrella need incentives to ave kids turn pro.

There are problems, for sure, but they far too often sit unnoticed while the bandy roosters of the soccer world draw attention to themselves.

Posted by: beach3 | November 5, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Marca saying that CR will be out another month. haha.

Posted by: Reignking | November 5, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Ron16 -

I hear you about the unwatchables games, but one cannot deny that the level of play has improved drmatically. I have been a DirectKick subscriber since day one and I remember watching the early days - the tactics, the talent, the uniforms, the HORROR!!

Don't get me wrong, there are some stinkers. But I would go out on a limb and say the majority of these games tend to get boring because the teams are pretty close talent wise (see parity) and are all more or less similar in their limitations in terms of star players who can unlock a defensive minded side. So when you have equal teams playing with 5 in the middle on a warm summer's day...well you see where I am going with this. The point is it's not so cut and there are other variables that can corrupt the old deductive logic checklist.

There are times when some teams do park the bus - some more than others. Quite certain that this doesn't just just happens in MLS. But to paint the entire league, it's viablity and watchability on just that, or make that your core argument against comes off as unfair to me.

From day one I always knew that MLS was no Premiership, La Liga or whatever, and clearly has a few decades of catch up. Fine. I'm cool with that. But it's ours to build or tear down. I vote build, even when it defies rational economic practices and I pay for things like merchandise and DirectKick. Plus it helps that DirectKick is not rudely priced either. I consider it a deal - for those of us who live hours away from a stadium.

Posted by: Kosh2 | November 5, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Does anyone have actual facts about the number of goals per game in MLS as opposed to other leagues? If, as is my guess, MLS is not significantly lower than the others, that would seem to mean that MLS is not more "tritely defensive" than the others.

There's no question that the level of skill and athleticism is higher in the countries where players are paid more. It's better to focus on the facts than to invent excuses about style of play.

Posted by: granadoskerry | November 5, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I agree with you Ron16. I am a DCU fan but can't stomach watching an MLS game in which DCU is not playing. Actually, for the last two seasons I could hardly watch DCU play. My criticism is that MLS is too much shoulder to shoulder, and individual efforts as opposed to team play (triangle passing). I would probably enjoy the physical nature of MLS more if I was playing but to watch it puts me to sleep. There is just a severe lack of creativity. I hope that changes and I think it starts with the refs doing a better job.

Posted by: TheDane1 | November 5, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

The sooner Payne goes, the better DC United will be...

Posted by: LCR-54 | November 5, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Gardner is wrong. Regardless of the merits of Payne's arguments, it is counter to the league's interests to have him call out particular teams by name. he could just as easily, and effectively, said "We prefer to play an open attacking style of soccer. Not all teams in this league do that."

Posted by: mmathai1 | November 5, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Take the LA Chivas playoff game. Every one of the 4 goals came off defensive miscues. That's just unacceptable in a playoff game. These teams are the upper echelon of our league. They should exhibit some skill.

The only way these teams can keep the other side out of the net is to keep 11 behind the ball at all times.

The league needs to grow. It's obvious. But I'd also agree with other posters who say we already are far ahead of where we were even just a few years ago. So it's a process. We'll get there eventually.

Posted by: Matte | November 5, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

From WSJ today:

"When guessing which country in Europe is the most soccer-crazed, England, with its legions of rabid, scarf-toting fans, might come to mind. Or Italy, where 200,000 followers gathered in Rome's Circus Maximus to watch the national team win the World Cup. But according to one study, it's actually Norway. And yes, we said soccer, not ski-jumping.

In their new book "Soccernomics," journalist Simon Kuper and sports economist Stefan Szymanski weighed three sets of criteria to reach this conclusion about the Norwegians. They started by correlating FIFA surveys on worldwide participation with actual player registration. Norway ranked 13th in the world for participation, with some 10% of Norwegians being FIFA-registered players. Attendance was the next factor. Here Cyprus, Iceland, Scotland and Norway boasted the highest percentage of the population that actually buys tickets, almost doubling the numbers of their bigger neighbors. Their final criterion was the couch-potato factor—which nation watches the most soccer on television. Ten years of viewing data for the World Cup and European Championships puts Croatia on top, followed by Norway and the Netherlands. By virtue of its high finish in each category, Norway takes the title.

So how did a nation covered in snow for most of the year become the most soccer mad? According to the U.N.'s 2008 Human Development Index, Norway is the world's most developed nation; the Norwegians have gobs of money for first-rate facilities and the leisure time to use them. Women, as fans and participants, make a difference, too. The Norwegian women's team ranks seventh in the world, and one in every 23 women there is a registered player. If its men's team was ever any good, write Messrs. Kuper and Szymanski, Norway "might really start to like soccer."

Nordic Obsession
According to "Soccernomics," here's where Norway ranks in European soccer attendance and TV viewing for the World Cup and European Championships.

(as a % of total population)
(as a % of households with TV sets)

1) Cyprus (4.8)* 1) Croatia (12.4)
2) Iceland (4.4) 2) Norway (11.9)
3) Scotland (3.9) 3) Netherlands (11.5)
4) Norway (3.7) 4) Uruguay (10.7)

* based on estimates

Posted by: OWNTF | November 5, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

I think the only non-DCU MLS games I watch are those in the beginning on the season and CCL matches.

Posted by: Reignking | November 5, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Time again for our mind expanding exercises! Repeat after me: "There are no style points in soccer. The only good soccer is winning soccer." That's right. Keep it up. One more time. Perhaps it will sink in this time.

You wil notice that coaches rarely prattle on about good or bad soccer, and certainly not about their own teams. They are too busy trying to craft a winning approach and assemble a winning team. Which is as it should be.

One can understand why watching highly skilled players is preferable, but if better skills don't produce wins, the sizzle soon disappears. Just ask some Arsenal fans. And with skilled players you can play all sorts of "styles." Playing "direct" effectively requires a high level of skill, for example.

Indeed, we all hope that the skill level in MLS continues to increase, but if you want to eliminate soccer that is hard on the eyes, improving the officiating would be a better choice.

Whatever else you might want to say about MLS, it does not feature the sort of unwatchable "Christians against the lions" matches that are so frequent in European leagues. Odds are, for example, that this weekend's Arsenal-Wolves game will be over within the first 20 minutes.

Posted by: Jphubba | November 5, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Paul Gardner is the most self-important, arrogant, anti-US Soccer dolt on the planet. If that guys agrees with you, then you need to reassess your point of view. Teams play defensively because they don't have 11 guys that can attack with flair. They don't have those guys because there isn't enough money to buy those players from other leagues. If MLS had salaries comparable to the big European leagues and there were still teams that pack it in, then that'd be one thing. But, MLS is what it is and criticism of the league needs to be tempered by the financial reality of a pro-soccer league in the US.

Posted by: hacksaw | November 5, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

OWNTF: If its men's team was ever any good, write Messrs. Kuper and Szymanski, Norway "might really start to like soccer."

I lived in Norway for a couple of years so let me start by saying that Norway was rated #2 in the FIFA rankings about 10 years ago. Egil "Drillo" Olsen didn't win them any titles, but he did make them a very good team. They also turned around in the WC quals after he took over this time around. So I think Norway watches as much soccer as it will watch. The facilities aren't that great, Start a top level team finally owns its own stadium and Lyn Oslo is building their own. Ulleval is a decent stadium, but it is really the only one they have. Norway does have a lot of money, but they only have 4 million people and they have a lot of teams.

Anyway about the MLS games quality has gone down since the expansion teams have invaded. When I first started watching 3-4 years ago the games were better. I have trouble watching the games now, the style of play is poor. The play will improve if they stop adding teams at the rate they are.

Posted by: bighungry | November 5, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

This Arsenal fan would love to see more 1:0 to the Arsenal and less 2:1 against the Arsenal. If that means playing a more defensive game, so be it, I'm much more interested in winning the league than winning the "style competition".

As for MLS matches, the reason many teams cannot play an open and attacking style is that they do not have the skilled players necessary. When a beautiful passing move among four or five players can be stopped with a simple shoulder challenge or foot/head getting stuck in, one can see the difficulty in attacking play - not to mention the average MLS-er's ability to trap the ball under pressure or the ability to drive an accurate cross with regularity is lacking. It is just simpler for teams to look for speedy counter-attacking players because there are more of them around...

Posted by: revltion1 | November 5, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Did anyone see the ManU/CSKA Moskow champion's league match? It just as many goals off defensive blunders than the Chivas/Galaxy game. Granted there were a fair amount of second stringers in there but no one's complaining about the quality of soccer played there.

Most people that complain about the quality of soccer in MLS are quick to compare it to the big 4 of the Premiership. Which is a completely unfair comparison because hardly any teams on the planet will come close to the quality on display there.

Posted by: Longgoneposter | November 5, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

GK Dom Cervi and Celtic at Hamburg

For those who missed the news, this isn't the usual 'this guy has a contract with that team, so I'm listing him here'. Tomorrow, you won't be reading "Cervi not in the 18" or "Cervi did not play". Artur Boruc had surgery and is out for 3 weeks. Celtic got a special exemption to add Cervi to the roster and he is expected to start in the Europa League match. If he does well, this might be the day the soccer world took notice of the former USA youth international.

Posted by: fischy | November 5, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

The quality of the average MLS game would go up tremendously simply by 1) getting rid of the Red Bull or 2) actually improving the Red Bull. They are "my team," but I can't bear to watch them. At this point in MLS history, it's more fun to watch specific individuals than it is to watch teams. IMHO.
As for Gardner's useless, repetitive comments, overall MLS soccer would actually improve if teams like the Red Bull could at least play defense properly.

Posted by: lmorin | November 5, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

"But by drawing attention to the fact that there is too much tritely defensive soccer in MLS, and that this is highly damaging to the league, Payne is spot on."

The sad thing is, if MLS is truly "defensive soccer", how come the league can't produce any decent defenders?! And no, Ryan Nelson doesn't count.

Posted by: Kev29 | November 5, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

@ longgone --

I saw that game and it was good stuff. There were goals off mistakes, but I think the larger point is that the Russkis didn't come in there and bunker, they attacked from the whistle and they never stopped, even when they were up 2. There were defensive mistakes because both teams were under constant pressure. Were the Russkis "smart"? -- they probably could have bunkered and held on. Maybe not, but I watched until the end, and I think MLS will never get better until more neutrals find the matches compelling. When even soccer fans (maybe especially soccer fans) find MLS games not compelling, that's an issue.

Although I take your point that Gardner is tiresome. But even a broken clock tells the right time twice a day.

Posted by: OWNTF | November 5, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Thanks fisch -- I kinda laughed at Cervi, actually, because I considered him 100% unlikely to play.

Adu, I don't laugh about -- he is only 99% likely to ride the pine.

Posted by: Reignking | November 5, 2009 10:57 AM | Report abuse

@ owntf

That's exactly my point. When defensive blunders like that happen in an MLS match, it's because of the quality of players in the league. When it happens in a match such as the one mentioned, it's because the teams were playing attacking soccer.

Posted by: Longgoneposter | November 5, 2009 10:57 AM | Report abuse

@beach3: It is not a matter of having a few unwatchable games. In MLS, that is the NORM. Even Colubus, one of the best if not THE best team in the league plays pretty boring soccer; though Schelotto can do some special things. You have to watch many MLS games before you find one that is decent. As I have said before, life is too short to watch bad soccer.

@kosh2: I have watched since day 1 also, and I would say the overall level level of play has improved marginally, and that mainly from an athleticism point of view. Tactically, and aesthetically, MLS is not much better than the early days at all. The uniforms are another matter. Most were awful.

But proponents of the argument that the level of play in MLS is dramatically better than it was in the early days are still unable to explain why, then, the *1998* Dc United team is generally accepted as being, by far, the best MLS team the league has ever produced. If the league really were light years better today, that team would long have been eclipsed by better MLS teams many times over.

Posted by: Ron16 | November 5, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

all this complaining about MLS' quality of play is starting to ring hollow for me.

i watched that Chivas-Galaxy game and yes, the defensive miscues were bad, but it was an entertaining game full of back-and-forth action with plenty of skill on display. hardly a disappointment. and you know what other match turned on a defensive miscue? yesterday's Liverpool match in the Champions League. it happens.

and how many truly "creative" players are there in the soccer universe (in the sense that i believe the word is being used)? several dozen? maybe a hundred give or take? most teams outside the top few in the best Euro leagues don't have anyone who will dominate a highlight reel consistently. i think MLS has its fair share of quality players who are enjoyable to watch. i'm not going out of my way to watch KC-SJ, but if i'm home and it's on, i'll follow what's happening.

if you only want to watch the best teams and players, i can understand that. enjoy the top leagues and the big tournaments. i love those, too, but i'm also not above catching the occasional Women's college match and enjoying it for what it is. that's the attitude i bring to MLS viewing as well, and while i hope that the level of play will continue to improve, i'm willing to be patient with it.

anyone have their own thoughts on tonight's Columbus-RSL match? Columbus will obviously be pressing from the outset, and if they can get an early goal, RSL will be forced to try to attack which could lead to a nice open game. i like Columbus to win 2-1 in regulation and get a goal in extra time to advance.

Posted by: dimesmakedollars | November 5, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

MLS should try to model the Dutch leauge. I tend to watch some their games on ESPN360, and I find that even though I am a huge Bundesliga fan, on average a game in the Eredivsie is more exciting than the Bundesliga in terms of the style of play. Considering that the Eredivise is not one of the "Big 4", and dont have the best talent in the world (still better than MLS, mind you), it is still very possible to have very exciting matches without the very best talent around.

Posted by: rademaar | November 5, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

In other news, did anyone notice that CalPERS pulled the golden teat from Vic Macfarlane?

I bet you that Fenty is glad he didn't climb in bed with that guy, never mind that many on this blog hate Fenty for not being their sugar daddy.

Posted by: OWNTF | November 5, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

This thread is boring. Many of the comments are too defensive and unreadable.

Where do I send the check?

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | November 5, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

@beach3: It is not a matter of having a few unwatchable games. In MLS, that is the NORM. Even Colubus, one of the best if not THE best team in the league plays pretty boring soccer; though Schelotto can do some special things. You have to watch many MLS games before you find one that is decent. As I have said before, life is too short to watch bad soccer.

Posted by: Ron16 | November 5, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse


And here's the other fallacy in this whole debate - there is no standard way to define "unwatchable." If you think your criteria for "unwatchable" is the one and only way to define the term, you're more of the problem than the games themselves.

Personal preference is not transferable.

Posted by: beach3 | November 5, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

That said, I'm also never particularly interested in Serie A games when they're on FSC either. Unless you have a team of choice, I find that league pretty dull.

are you kidding me!? The 3 midweek games I saw last week(fast forward DVRing) yielded 18 goals. Napoli Milan 2 - 2 Inter - Parlemo 5-3 and Juventus Sampdoria 5 - 1. That's far from dull. The only annoying thing about serie a is the stadium situation. the football is great.

Posted by: mizage | November 5, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Not that this is the greatest indicator, but as far as stats go ...
MLS 2009 -- Goals per game, 2.53; 0-0 games, 14 of 229
France 2009-10 -- 2.54, 4 of 109
England 2009-10 -- 2.98, 4 of 107
Spain 2009-10 -- 2.75, 6 of 80
Germany 2009-10 -- 2.73, 10 of 99
Holland 2009-10 -- 2.66, 6 of 90
Italy 2009-10 -- 2.49, 12 of 110
UEFA Champs League -- 2.66, 5 of 64
Europa League -- 2.56, 5 of 72
CONCACAF Champs League -- 3.16, 2 of 64
CONCACAF WC Quals -- 2.54, 3 of 109

Posted by: mjhoya12 | November 5, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

I'll continue the quoting from Kuper's book, and perhaps converge the last couple of threads:

“The U.S., China and India are shooting up in income and population, they may have little experience, in terms of coaching, but they can get it quickly,” Kuper said. “That’s one reason I think the U.S. has not done better. Some people take the view that the U.S. needs an American coach. I don’t think that’s correct. The best coaching week in and week out is in Western Europe, and the U.S. needs to adopt the best practices. And if you want to win, send all your best players to play in Europe and hire all your coaches from Europe.”

Perhaps we will see DCU take Kuper's advice and hire a foreign coach with no MLS ties.

Posted by: axman664 | November 5, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse


i think you just helped prove some of the point. i'm with M___N in that i don't really care for Serie A, goals or no goals. i don't know why, it's just a personal thing. i would likely watch an MLS game over anything in Serie A except maybe the Milan derby. i have a friend who is a huge Fiorentina fan, so occasionally i will watch a game with him and his passion makes it more interesting, but it's just not there for me.

Posted by: dimesmakedollars | November 5, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

I agree that MLS continues to hit a lull in mid-summer, but the early games and especially the playoffs are intense and normally exciting.

But it all comes down to this: if you want MLS to buy even better players and coaches, you better watch the games on TV and go to a few games a year. MLS is not going to become a top-tier league on its own - we all need to take a bit of responsibility for this league's development.

Posted by: hoyanick1 | November 5, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

MLS games would become more watchable - instantly - if the refs would call a Hold a Hold. After a weekend of free kicks from around the edge of the 18, I believe the game would open up rather quickly.

Most leagues seem to protect the attacker: the MLS, not so much.

Posted by: carnack | November 5, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Holding? Is that a 10 yard penalty?

Posted by: Reignking | November 5, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

@beach3 - Excellent points about the substantive issues that suffer or take a backseat to the more vociferous pedestrian ones. Well put.


I hate getting into arguments about subjective things like the improvements in level of play. These things tend to get reduced to maters of taste - a thing that can be arugued round and round for days. One person stated here that they hate Serie A games because they came off as boring, which to me many of them come off as such. Does that mean all Serie A games are boring? Heck No. I've watched a few thrillers (mostly anything with Juve in it).

To me the level of play in MLS has increased dramatically (considering where it's coming from just a few short years ago). But hey, one man's dramatic is another's marginal. I can dig that. I just don't think that the majority of MLS games are boring, as I have watched some exciting games this year (on DK too).

Summer month games are hard to watch (for all MLS teams), I'll give you that. But I would love to have someone show me the EPL team that can run around in that kind of heat for 90+.

Like beach said, there are greater issue that need to be addressed beyond beautiful vs. anti soccer. I'd very much like to be a part of, or involved in those types of discussions.

Posted by: Kosh2 | November 5, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Like beach said, there are greater issue that need to be addressed beyond beautiful vs. anti soccer. I'd very much like to be a part of, or involved in those types of discussions.

Posted by: Kosh2

Does Lerner own an MLS team? He'll sit down and take your suggestions for a couple hours

Posted by: JacobfromAtlanta-ish | November 5, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

A lot of MLS games are unwatchable on TV not just because of level/style of play, but also as was previously mentioned, officiating (which can bet downright eye-gougingly bad), but also we have some pretty uninspired announcers broadcasting some of these games. The convergence of all these subsets creates an ugly brand.

So MLS needs to try to focus on the two things in its immediate control -- one, weed out the worst of our officials and find better quality, and two, slowly bring the salary cap and roster numbers to a place where each team isn't shackled for talent.

Posted by: mercurysnake77 | November 5, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

I could talk about this stuff all day. Probably going to need 2 posts here.


You raise a very good point. Garber's expansion fever is something I've never been particularly happy about. We don't need to add a new team every year when the pool of truly good players is only so big. Our league is currently watered down, and the only way to fix that will be good foreign acquisitions (something a lot of teams don't do that well).

One reason MLS teams have been struggling in CONCACAF play the past couple years is that they aren't deep enough. Well, of course they aren't, when you keep adding rosters that need filling. An expansion team is more likely to take players from good teams in the expansion draft; those same good teams are the ones trying to represent the league abroad.

Some expansion has been good. Seattle is obviously a great example. However, does MLS really need Chivas USA? Or the reborn Earthquakes?


It's counterintuitive: Team defending is often easier to do with lower-skilled players, because it involves doing things simply. If you have strong defenders, you can afford to loosen up a bit because those guys don't need quite as much help to get the job done.

When I was a high school junior, all four of our defenders were extremely reliable. As a result, our defensive midfielder and wide men could afford to be more aggressive going forward. We lost just one game while generally attacking like we had to score 3 goals a game or get cut.

The outside backs from that team graduated that year, and my senior year our best possible replacements for them were a freshman and a good athlete with only one year of soccer at that level under his belt (it was a smallish school). Due to this drop in quality of defender, those of us in the midfield had to spend more time helping them out and take fewer risks both in making runs forward and in our passing. We spent most of the season in a Revs-like bunker, and only scored more than 2 goals a couple times (against truly awful teams).

Think of what separates this current DC United team from the teams that have won MLS Cups. The biggest difference is that guys like Burch and even James would have never seen the field on those teams because all of our starting defenders were, at worst, solid and reliable. Obviously there are other differences, but to me the quality of our defenders is issue #1, and has been for years now.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | November 5, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Thanks fisch -- I kinda laughed at Cervi, actually, because I considered him 100% unlikely to play.

Adu, I don't laugh about -- he is only 99% likely to ride the pine.

Posted by: Reignking | November 5, 2009 10:57 AM

Seems early reports about Cervi were exaggerated. He's in the 18, but on the bench.

Posted by: fischy | November 5, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

So, I clicked on the Roma-Fulham game. Typical. Lots of empty seats in Rome. This is something that continues to amaze me. How do teams in Italy afford high-priced talents? They have bigger crowds than MLS, but still....

Posted by: fischy | November 5, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

mjhoya12, this is pretty cool:

MLS 2009 -- Goals per game, 2.53; 0-0 games, 14 of 229
France 2009-10 -- 2.54, 4 of 109
England 2009-10 -- 2.98, 4 of 107
Spain 2009-10 -- 2.75, 6 of 80
Germany 2009-10 -- 2.73, 10 of 99
Holland 2009-10 -- 2.66, 6 of 90
Italy 2009-10 -- 2.49, 12 of 110

So the attack-crazy Dutch are still behind Spain, Germany and England.

Could be hard dragging friends to United games by telling them "We might get lucky and see three goals!!" . . . but it's the same story everywhere.

Posted by: fallschurch1 | November 5, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse


As a neutral, I found the approach Columbus took as cowardly. Columbus has won 2 straight Supporters Shields and is the defending champion, and approached the game like they're the team that got into the playoffs on the last day. Where's the swagger, the bravado, the courage? Emotionally, what I want is for RSL's speedy forwards to punish the the Crew for their unnecessarily negative play.

I believe, however, that RSL will spurn several chances to do that and that Columbus will dramatically force overtime late on. In OT, it comes down to whether Schelotto is playing or not. If he's in, Columbus scores on a set piece. If not, we'll see penalties. In any case, I'm expecting a game high on notable incidents, even if they're missed sitters or bad calls. Should be fun.


An MLS team actually signing a foreign coach that can adapt to the league would be great. If DC can find that guy, I'd be ecstatic. However, it's been tried before, and the results have ranged from disappointing (TFC's English coaches) to flat out horrible (Ruud Gullit, Hans Westerhof, the several attempts the old Metrostars made). There are several unique factors that make MLS a very difficult league to get to someone without extensive experience with it. It's not just the salary cap and roster restrictions; it's travel, it's squads full of American players who are used to a different dynamic between them and the coach than exists in Europe.

The MLS team that appoints a foreign coach who gets the league will immediately be a strong contender, because they'll have a unique commodity. Since the gap between good and bad in MLS is pretty thin, having that one advantage is huge.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | November 5, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

It's amazing how much unwatchable soccer we all watch.

Posted by: PrinceBuster21 | November 6, 2009 1:35 AM | Report abuse

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