Tags: Major League Soccer Final, MLS Cup, Real Salt Lake, Sporting Kansas City
Well, that was quite a final. Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake played an exciting final in a match that had no end of drama.
The game was played in ridiculously low temperatures, and sections of the pitch were clearly frozen. Those parts of the pitch that weren’t completely frozen were lumpy and bumpy at best. The ball was very cold and unresponsive. The first half was filled with very poor football because the players were having a hard time moving the ball in the atrocious conditions. It was a tremendously physical and hard-tackling contest. It was more of a pitched battle than a football match because of the poor conditions.
In the second half both teams played better football, and it was Kansas City that attacked and played the better football. SKC had 9 corner kicks to 1 for RSL in the match. RSL had the opportunities to win the match with very effective counter attacks, hitting the post twice. In fact, had RSL buried one of their two golden chances in the first half they probably would have won the match.
RSL’s Saborio scored a nice goal early in the second half, but only after bringing the ball under control with his upper arm, which the linesman did not flag in spite of having a clear view. Collin equalized mid-way through the second half with a great header under pressure off of a Zusi corner kick.
The game even had lots of laughs. Me and my mate spent a lot of time laughing at Jimmy Nielsen, Sporting’s goalkeeper, who both played and looked for all the world like a fat old drunk from a pub who was called in to play at the last second because no one else was available. What we didn’t know was that he was playing with badly injured ribs, which goes a long way to explaining his lack of mobility, shocking slowness and unsteadiness on his feet. Nielsen saved two penalties during the marathon match-deciding penalty kick contest, which really turned the tide, allowing SKC to win the Cup. We had thought for sure RSL’s keeper Rimando would do better in the penalties, but Nielsen bested him. Nielsen even had a paper document in his hand which supposedly told him where SKC players would shoot the ball. It was just a prop to unsettle the RSL players, of course. It worked.
While both SKC and RSL are model Major League Soccer franchises that play very attractive football, only one could win. It was nice to see SKC given a reward for successfully rebranding their team and turning their franchise around in such a dramatic fashion. SKC fans are fantastic, and the display of enthusiasm they put on in their recently built stadium was a credit to them and the MLS both. RSL’s faithful were there in numbers too.
Even though the match probably would have been cancelled if it was a regular season game due to the frozen pitch, the match was a classic final that surely must be one of the best finals played in the short history of the MLS.
Lets hope the Whitecaps get to the final one day…
Tags: Don Garber, Major League Soccer Expansion, MLS expansion, Orlando City SC
Yesterday Orlando City SC was announced as Major League Soccer’s 21st franchise. Orlando has been very successfully working away in the USL, the third tier of North American football. It is reported they enjoy 9,000 or so fans every match even at that level. This is good news because it shows that people in the State of Florida are desperate for football and want to support a team. Ten years or so ago, MLS was forced to contract two Florida teams, those being the Tampa Bay Mutiny and the Miami Fusion. Now, Florida entrepreneurs obviously feel that they can run an MLS franchise and make it profitable in the years to come.
My only fear is that under the current salary cap system, which caps spending on players at 2.8 million or so, expansion will mean a dilution of talent in MLS overall.
As things stand, you don’t have to scratch very far below the surface of any MLS team’s starting 11 (including my own team the Vancouver Whitecaps) before you get to some very mediocre footballers who are not really worth paying to watch. Whenever the MLS schedule clashes with international fixtures, meaning star players are absent from MLS matches, the quality of players on the pitch often takes a distinct dive to the point where we may as well be watching a second tier NASL game.
If MLS is to have 24 teams in the future, as is stated, how will this benefit the fans of already existing teams? What is the plan to address the often poor level of quality of the squad players in the league?
One solution is to dramatically raise the salary cap in the next collective bargaining round in order to allow MLS to recruit and retain quality players. This will stop good young American and Canadian players from going over to Europe to play in lower leagues for more money because their payday in MLS is so poor. Raising the salary cap must be done in such a way that it attracts quality new players rather than giving the already existing mediocre players a pay raise, however.
One thing I do not want as a fan is for MLS to mimic the huge and bloated MLB, NHL, NBA and NFL. The dilution of talent that has resulted in those leagues from too many teams makes the great majority of games in those leagues not worth watching. Putting excellence on the pitch is what will make people keep on paying to see MLS Soccer games.
Don Garber has been very smart in learning the lessons and avoiding the mistakes of the old NASL, (which folded in 1984), but surely he must recall the fact that the old NASL folded, in large part, because of over-aggressive expansion which led to a dilution of talent and poor quality football which people did not want to watch. In effect, expansion led to boredom for the fans of the old NASL.
While MLS is growing rapidly, my belief is that under-performing franchises such as Chivas USA, whose marketing plan has been a complete and massive failure, should be folded, in order to keep the quality of players, and franchises, at a high level. The attendance figures last year at Chivas USA home games were an embarrassment to MLS.
Don Garber surely must have plan to improve the quality of players in MLS team’s squads. If he does not, the expansion of MLS from the current 19 teams playing to the planned 24 could be the bubble that bursts the league.
Tags: Don Garber, major league soccer, MLS winter schedule; MLS summer soccer, Sepp Blatter, Sepp Blatter Schedule change, summer soccer
I love watching summer soccer. One of the things I love about Major League Soccer is that it keeps soccer going all year round without a break. When the season in Europe winds down, Major League Soccer is just getting into the meat of the season. When the MLS cup is awarded, things are well under way in Europe. A nasty fellow called Sepp Blatter wants to put and end to this non-stop party.
Blatter, who is the President of FIFA and the undisputed Clown Prince of Football, wants us to change soccer in North America to correspond with the winter schedule the rest of the world plays. This would mean starting the league in August, taking a six to eight week break at winter, and then starting up again in the new year with the final in spring.
This is a recipe for disaster for MLS, which has recently enjoyed a fantastic boom in growth due to the David Beckham effect. Why would MLS squander this growth and risk alienating its fans through radical changes to its schedule?
I realize that some MLS fans want things to be just like they are in Europe, with no salary cap, promotion and relegation, and winter football. In my view there would be nothing more foolish and destructive than trying to emulate European football. What makes MLS soccer so interesting is the fact it is a laboratory for new football ideas. The conservatives of FIFA don’t like this creativity. I say they should back off.
There is no doubt the MLS schedule should be created so as not to interfere with World Cup qualifiers, Major World Cup tournament matches, and FIFA sanctioned international friendlies. This means more mid week games should be played so that fans don’t have to watch their MLS teams play without their stars who are absent for international duty.
If ratings drop off in winter due to NFL pointy-ball, the MLS and its owners will just have to compete and win by providing entertaining football and by gaining fan loyalty. There are signs that this is working, with loyal fan groups in particular in Portland, Seattle and Kansas City. The majority of these fans will be packing their stadia whether NFL is on or not.
The prospect of watching football games on plastic pitches in domed stadia because of winter weather does not appeal to me at all.
Don Garber should resist the evil advances of Sepp Blatter and retain the summer schedule for MLS.
Why get behind RSL?
This week they play the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final against Mexico’s Monterrey. This is the first final of the CCL that a team from Major League Soccer has participated in.
Frankly, the performance of MLS teams in the CCL in the past has been an embarrassment to the MLS, especially when you consider the fact Division 2 teams like the Montreal Impact and the Puerto Rico Islanders were going deep into the tournament, while MLS teams had already been knocked out.
The CCL is the chance for MLS to test itself against the best teams from CONCACAF. It is a good measure of the quality of MLS teams. I have argued Don Garber should make winning the CCL a priority for the league. If an MLS club wins the CCL, they get to play in the World Club Cup, with the opportunity to play the best teams from Europe and South America.
MLS has created a model of football which is original in its concept, with a league based on parity and with tight financial constraints on its clubs. This is all very well, but does it create good football?
We will see on Wednesday. This is when RSL face the daunting task of playing Monterrey in Mexico, where no MLS club team has ever won a game. I, for one, hope they win it all, and in doing so prove MLS can produce clubs which can play the best football in CONCACAF.