Some thoughts on the week, so I am still in shock after the horrible officiating last week in Vancouver and so a couple of things really hit me as humorous this week, first was MLS doing "Referee Week" with tons of positive posts about the officials. That was funny because while they are doing some things right, they like US Soccer cherry picked calls to review and avoided controversy, this of course doesn't surprise me as the league also has the "controversial call replay rule" which prevents teams from showing controversial calls on the big screen as to not rile up the players or fans and to not disrespect the officials.
Yes I get that MLS is trying, but clearly a lot of officials still are so below par that they made the league and the sport look silly. The league trying to selectively enforce diving after the fact is a clear example that they not only expect the officials to get things wrong, but that they want to depending on which ways the wind blows go back and punish the players. I wish the league and US Soccer would be as transparent about going back and punishing the officials who make bad calls, but I am sure they have justified in their own mind why not to do that.
US Soccer did pick a call that they say the official got wrong this week as part of their review of the ref's, and yes it came from the RSL match at Vancouver, and yes it was a handball call, but no they avoided any mention of the first one (which is almost universally acknowledged as a wrong call) but they went for the call against Chris Schuler. In the opinion of Michael Kennedy, the call was wrong and it was a case of ball to hand and not a handball. I am sure they avoided looking at the first call because to admit it was a mistake would leave a lot more questions than answers.
more thoughts after the jump:
So beyond the ongoing issues with officials which fans of every team in MLS have had to deal with and the fact that MLS is doing their best to put a positive spin on things, it was also interesting to hear a couple of comments from our comish Don Garber. He first dropped a bombshell that while NY2 is still his choice for the 20th team in MLS, that the New York Cosmos weren't part of the current discussions. From various sources online (for what they are worth), the Cosmos say they still want into MLS, but there appear to be 3 other players in that market as well (if anyone knows more about those groups I would love to hear about it). Then he talked about how happy he is with the current playoffs and the fact that so many teams are still in the hunt with just a couple of weeks to go, yeah right, so it appears that Don has some short term memory issues and might need a reality check.
So yes by opening up two more playoff spots you will of course have more teams competing for spots, it is called basic match if 10 of 18 teams make it, then it only follows that with the lowered bar that more teams would be in the race. I think 2009 provided the best post season drama in recent MLS history, think back to the final weekend when 6 teams were fighting for 2 spots. I think the fact that 4 teams from the West have secured spots before a single team in the East has, simply speaks to two facts, first a balanced schedule reveals weaker teams and almost always one conference is better than the other so a single table would be a better measurement of overall quality of teams.
Oh I know we won't ever get either long term, the balanced schedule will go away next year, MLS has already said as much and we will never get rid of conferences as long as some believe that they are needed for rivarlies. It is a shame, as just this week the head of US Soccer and the coach of the USMNT said that they would favor a longer MLS schedule. Neither called for more matches but rather just a shorter offseason, the results of the fact that almost half the teams will be done in two weeks and not start action again until late January (that means some players will be two months without action if called up for USMNT January camp- while European players will be midseason). I do understand that geography and climate make a longer season a challenge for MLS, but a move to start the season two weeks earlier would open up the possibility of a balanced schedule even with 20 teams, less conflict on FIFA dates. It would require teams in locations where weather might be a challenge to perhaps think about their schedule more, and hopefully MLS will make the move to MLS Cup being played at the location of the highest seeded team in the final. Fans will buy tickets no matter how short the notice and no matter what the weather is like if their team is playing for a championship.
Then in a more local topic it is the second leg of the Rocky Mountain Cup, I will be posting my match preview for the Real Salt Lake at Colorado Rapids match on Friday morning, but to me this match doesn't mean as much as it did when neither team was doing well enough to challenge for MLS Cup, or Champions League action. Those days are over as both teams have lifted MLS Cup, both teams have taken part in Champions League action and now while the rivalry is still there for many players and fans, I just think that it is more like every other match for me. Yeah I like to give the Rapids fans and bloggers a hard time, but I would do that with or without the RMC. Anyhow that is it for now.
OFF MY SOAPBOX