It has been a few days since I admitted my football snobbery may have caused me to prematurely dismiss Major League Soccer as unwatchable. Therefore I have decided to educate and immerse myself in the MLS and I feel like I have already learnt so much. Barely minutes of viewing MLS highlights led me to the realisation of something quite magical. Major League Soccer plays host to a whole list of footballers who have tried and failed to make it in England. The sort of players who made every supporter’s heart sink each time they were fortunate enough to get near the ball. At first listening, this might not sound like a glowing endorsement of Major League Soccer. However I have found there is a certain glory in witnessing bad players move to bad leagues in the hope they can live the dream or at least find their level. Colorado Rapids striker Caleb Folan is a wonderful example of just this. Having failed to impress at Hull City, Folan thought why not attempt to crack the MLS. He shouldn’t have bothered.
However there is much, much more to the MLS than dire British players enjoying their retirement in the States. If you are a football fan who (like me) adores reeling off pointless statistics that almost nobody cares about then you have died and gone to average football heaven. The MLS and its fans love statistics. Commentators roll out numbers without even explaining what they relate to. Form seems only to exist in numerical form. It is rather wonderful. I could say Houston Dynamo’s record is 8-3-3 and people would know exactly what I am talking about, it’s as if words might one day become redundant in Major League Soccer.
Now I hope MLS fans don’t think I am trying to mock or disparage their League because that is definitely not my intention. However what they must admit is that Major League Soccer is completely and utterly mental. In no other league would Juan Pablo Angel score for fun or Luke Rodgers (a former Port Vale striker) partner Thierry Henry upfront?! It is bizarre yet fascinatingly intriguing.
Talking of intrigue the MLS and its brief history is crammed full of amusing little details that draw me further and further into its circus. Take my new adopted team Toronto FC. Any guesses on who scored the clubs first ever competitive goal? Why it is former Millwall and Preston striker Danny Dichio of course! It turns out Toronto FC were founded just five years ago and Dichio is now a bit of a cult hero for the clubs supporters. In fact in honour of that landmark goal Toronto fans now sing a Danny Dichio chant in the 24th minute of every match! Major League Soccer is honestly a secret garden full of weird and wonderful football facts and I have found the way in.
As previously discussed we have established buying and hiring former European players doesn’t guarantee MLS success, quite the opposite in fact. My early research suggests that the accomplished teams seem to have more American players than European. Top of the Eastern Conference are Columbus Crew who don’t have a single European on their books. Consequently U.S.A’s national team seems to have an exciting future with Twenty-three year old New York Red Bulls defender Tim Ream, San Jose Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski and Brek Shea are just three of the U.S.A’s big MLS talents.
I am yet to watch my new “local” side Toronto FC in action but do not have much longer to wait. They play Columbus Crew on September 10th who by lucky coincidence are Toronto’s big rivals. The Reds have never beaten Columbus Crew in their five year history but I have an emerging good feeling that my first game as a “TFC” fan will also be their first win over “The Crew”.