Apr 10, 2013, 10:45 AM EDT
A few years ago I wrote critically and frequently about Major League Soccer’s chief flaw on the field. That is, the faulty element most guilty of holding back the league from achieving better quality between the white lines (i.e., MLS imperfection on the field, not in marketing matters).
It was simply that too many matches didn’t matter. When 80 percent or 60 percent of teams make the playoffs (MLS first decade or so), every single match simply was not important enough. That tolerance for imperfection infected everything, from daily practices to match-day management. Mistakes weren’t punished sufficiently, so the drive to improve individually and collectively suffered.
It’s gotten better, of course, but the math still works in opposition to genuine, night-in, night-out, down and dirty competitiveness. Simply put, each individual match does not drip with the weight of importance as it should.
Making the playoffs is still the brick and mortar of Major League Soccer from a competitive standpoint. And more than half the teams still qualify (10 of 19). So there is still not enough “gotta have it” for each contest.
The basic league structure is just too forgiving in terms of individual match importance; too many contests cannot be earnestly stamped “Code Red Critical!”
When MLS teams get themselves into Champions League seriousness, they aren’t quite equipped to deal tactically, emotionally or intelligently when it comes to one match (or a pair of them) that simply must be had.
We saw it twice last week, as Seattle couldn’t properly manage a home match against Santos Laguna. Left in a 1-0 hole, last night’s 1-1 draw in Mexico was insufficient. Santos advances into the CONCACAF Champions League final; MLS misses another chance.
The LA Galaxy conceded two goals late against Monterrey, and the chances of something heroic tonight in Mexico do not look good. At all.
Quality depth in the rosters (better on the Mexican side) has a lot to say about this ongoing imbalance, as Mexican sides continue to dominate the regional tourney.
But the lenient playoff qualification standards still hinder MLS progress. We saw it last year as clubs that finished fourth and fifth in their conferences made the MLS Cup final. LA was about as bad it could be in March, April and May … and still won the championship.
When a smaller percentage still of Major League Soccer teams make the playoffs, every match will ring the bell of importance. Organizations and individuals will know that a match in April, May, June, etc. should carry all the serious weight of a stretch-run contest in September. Only then will the best practices of approaching a match and managing out matches become muscle memory for MLS players, coaches and clubs.
Until then, well, we’ll just have to enjoy a few more all-Liga MX CONCACAF Champions League finals.
Aug 30, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT
The Tijuana midfielder absolutely smoked a goal home against Leones Negros on Friday night.
Aug 30, 2014, 1:14 PM EDT
Hammers boss laments poor decision but must look at his own teams shortcomings after poor display.
Aug 30, 2014, 12:44 PM EDT
The Special One got a special start from his players. Watch Chelsea vs. Everton live, right here.
Aug 30, 2014, 12:43 PM EDT
“We had more possession of the ball than Burnley but more free-kicks were awarded against us than in favour of us,” van Gaal said. “I think that is remarkable.”
Aug 30, 2014, 12:19 PM EDT
Mame Biram Diouf is back from Germany, and the Senegalese forward has already scored a Premier League goal in exhilarating fashion.
Aug 30, 2014, 12:11 PM EDT
Watch Everton and Chelsea clash, right here.
Aug 30, 2014, 12:06 PM EDT
One goal does not an exciting game make, but Harry Redknapp will be content to snare his first three points of the year.
Aug 30, 2014, 11:59 AM EDT
Mame Biram Diouf’s dazzling run through Man City was the moment, but Stoke won the match with defense.
Aug 30, 2014, 11:59 AM EDT
Swansea flying after third-straight win to start the season.
Aug 30, 2014, 11:57 AM EDT
Remember the name Rolando Aarons, as the 18-year-old Jamaican-born Englishman starred in leading Newcastle back.
Aug 30, 2014, 11:52 AM EDT
Schneiderlin double hands Saints their first win of the PL season.
Aug 30, 2014, 11:11 AM EDT
Watch Routledge’s stunning volley for Swansea City.
Aug 30, 2014, 11:02 AM EDT
All the action from a frantic first half. Watch the 2nd half live, right here.
Aug 30, 2014, 10:12 AM EDT
The long-time Arsenal midfielder is returning to both London and the Premier League.
Aug 30, 2014, 9:40 AM EDT
The Premier League got its first taste of what Di Maria can do when he served an absolutely gorgeous 50-yd ball to a streaking van Persie.
Aug 30, 2014, 9:13 AM EDT
Can the Swans win three on the spin to the start the season? Watch their game against West Brom live, right here.
Aug 30, 2014, 9:12 AM EDT
Jozy Altidore is on the bench for Sunderland, but the bigger striker news is that Chelsea target Loic Remy is not on the bench for QPR.
Aug 30, 2014, 9:08 AM EDT
The newest England call-up and ‘Ginger Pirlo’ Jack Colback will join a dangerous NUFC unit that sees Remy Cabella, Moussa Sissoko and Siem de Jong in the mix.
Aug 30, 2014, 9:08 AM EDT
Can Saints grab their first win the season away from home against West Ham? Watch live, here.
Aug 30, 2014, 9:04 AM EDT
Bacary Sagna makes the lineup for City, who will start Sergio Aguero and Stevan Jovetic up top.
- LIVE – Two goals in first three minutes puts Chelsea 2-0 up vs. Everton 0
- Manchester City 0-1 Stoke City: Diouf’s dribble springs upset 1
- Newcastle United 3-3 Crystal Palace: Zaha hands Warnock dream comeback 0
- VIDEO: Swansea City’s Wayne Routledge scores sensational volley 0
- Burnley 0-0 Manchester United: Sloppy Utd overshadows Di Maria debut 5
- Watch Live: Manchester City vs. Stoke City (Lineups) 0