It feels like I have been following Major League Soccer for 2 years rather than just 2 months but as an outsider looking in it has been a fascinating football experience. The time has now come for me to note down some of my most useless observations regarding MLS to date. Please don’t bestow them any importance because the likelihood is the only person they hold any significance to is yours truly. However I am your bog standard, run of the mill English football fan and my utterly facetious comments you are about to read might be of some interest to Major League Soccer fans. Don’t hold your breath though as when it comes to football I have some obsessive compulsive problems, nothing is ever good enough for me and winning too much bothers me (hence my decision to support Toronto FC).
First up let us discuss MLS team names. Many will argue they are slightly daft some even bizarre but I like them. I am especially fond of teams named after natural disasters, whoever thought that was a good idea needs his head examined. I half expect there to be an extremely inappropriate sports team called the Florida Forest Fires (in fact I had to Google it just in case). As I see it there are 3 wonderful categories:
1. Sensible, respectable sides with sensible respectable names.
2. Clubs that have changed their names to sound like Europe’s elite.
3. The ridiculous.
Sides that fall into category one include D.C United and of course my beloved Toronto F.C sensible teams with sensible names. Category two holds the likes of Sporting KC previously called Kansas City Wizards and FC Dallas who were Dallas Burn (not to be mistaken for the Florida Forest Fires). Both wisely decided to change their names but unfortunately now sound like English Sunday League teams. Finally we have category three which holds most of the other teams including New York Red Bulls and for me most notably Montreal Impact. I say most notably because 2012 will be Montreal’s first ever MLS season. Unfortunately history suggests (to start with at least) they are unlikely to make any sort of impact. Personally I would suggest a name like Montreal Consolidators or The Montreal Mid-Tables would lead to less embarrassment and perhaps even put less pressure on their side.
One of my frustrations since following Major League Soccer and Toronto FC has been the remarkable effect I have had on their season. I made the decision to follow Toronto because of their average team, and league position and because they are one of my local MLS sides (just 3447.989 miles away from my home address in England). I thought I might witness the odd decent performance scraping a draw here and there but in fact my first game as a supporter was an incredible 4-2 away win against Columbus Crew. Two months later I have still only seen them lose once in the league and the club is through to the quarter finals of the Champions League for the first time in its history. Is this down to me? Yes, oh and maybe partly down to Danny Koevermans et al. It is no coincidence that as soon as I support an average team to watch average football so I can constantly moan and berate players they start winning, as I have already said it makes me uncomfortable. At the time of writing Charlton Athletic the club I have supported since a young boy find themselves running away with England’s League One. What do I have to moan at? I’m left complaining about not being able to complain. I fear if I keep writing Toronto FC will be MLS Cup winners by this time next year in fact I am considering putting all of my savings on it. I’m 100% sure my wife will see the logic in such a brave decision.
My final and least futile of observations is this: Major League Soccer does not need the respect of so called “Euro sceptics” to be a wonderful league in its own right. The long and short of it is the majority of European football fans will never be able to accept the lack of relegation or even the play-off system but that is their problem. Do I agree with giving the worst team a leg up for the following season rather than any sort of reprimand? Absolutely not, I would even suggest it is dangerous for Major League Soccer and at the very least it is nonsensical. However it is one of those MLS quirks I will just have to get used to. MLS does not need to win anyone over it has its own identity that suits the country it is in and the fans that follow it. Brilliant players are starting to take the league more seriously, Theo Walcott has already discussed playing in America and Robbie Keane could be playing for a Premier League side if he wanted to. Anyway I have to finish there as I need to give Aron Winter a call and see what he thinks of a name change. I’m thinking the Toronto Tornadoes for 2012. Until next week.