My attempt to appreciate and enjoy the MLS has this week led me to vigorously scrutinise every single highlight of Toronto FC’s 2011 season. Whilst doing so something rather interesting dawned on me; Major League Soccer is unquestionably not as mediocre as I had previously believed. In fact if you mute the commentary, some of the football is very much watchable. Whether it is the dreadlocked Kyle Beckerman bossing the midfield for Salt Lake City, Dwayne De Rosario smashing in goals for DC United or even Toronto FC’s Joao Plata mesmerizing a right back I have come to a significant conclusion. It is no longer the players that make Major League Soccer frustrating to watch; it is the rule makers.
The glaringly obvious issue is the fact that a team can finish bottom of the league yet face no penalty. Simply put, without promotion and relegation there is no passion or indeed drama for the bottom half of the table. The end of the season is simply a dull anti climax for fans who have to endure plenty of meaningless matches with play-offs out of reach. Now for American readers I’m sure you might feel this has been written and talked about to death. However the lack of demotion and promotion in MLS might come as a shock to some of my English readers, it did to me. It seems almost stubborn that those in charge of Major League Soccer won’t adopt a system that clearly has been largely successful across Europe.
So there is your big primary issue, but there are other problems with Major League Soccer. For instance; asking me to watch a football match in a stadium called ‘Pizza Hut Park’ is an affront, an attack to my footballing dignity. How can a relatively new football club start creating history in a stadium named after a chain of fast food restaurants, it is everything that is wrong with modern day football. Furthermore, young people should come away from a football match with the desire to kick a ball rather than the desire to eat as much as they can at a Pizza Hut Buffet. I recognise clubs need the revenue but if one more irritatingly pompous person tells me football is a business there is every chance I will spontaneously combust. Record attendances went to gaze at Stanley Matthews, Bobby Moore and Pele before live football was televised and they would again. Rant over.
So we have established that relegation is essential and stadiums named after Burger King are definitely not. We have also established there are many impressive players in Major League Soccer but that is not to say there are some astonishingly bad ones as well. In particular some of the defending I have witnessed has been nothing short of horrific. None more so than from my own adopted team Toronto FC who seem incapable of not going a goal behind within 4 minutes of kicking off. I have managed to gather some TFC stats that make interesting reading:
- Toronto FC have conceded the most first half goals of any team in MLS (22)
- Toronto FC have conceded the most second half goals of any team in MLS (27)
The good news is Toronto FC have yet to concede during the half time break. Don’t get me wrong I’m not moaning, this is just the sort of adversity I have signed up to MLS for. Hopefully the Reds will do the business against Columbus Crew at the appropriately named ‘Crew Stadium’ on Saturday and bring home 3 points. However if they do not it doesn’t really matter, as play-offs are out of reach and we can’t get relegated.
(Alan Gordon’s 94th minute equalizer away at LA Galaxy.)