Monday, June 9, 2008

Why is the MLS so Damn Dirty?

Fellow North Americans! (Europeans, feel free to read on and laugh as I'm sure you already have been up to this point.) Take a moment if you can to walk away from Euro 2008 with its picturesque landscapes, hordes of Croatian supporters, and attractive football pitches actually designed for football, and step back into the hell that is the MLS.

Now MLS, I don't like you and you don't like me, but since my hometown has a professional club inside of you I have to learn to accept you for who you really are. I'm willing to take the substandard quality of play, the empty stadiums, the 'football pitches' that are either faded gridirons or shag carpets manufactured in a lab. But why, why so many dirty tackles, challenges and fouls? If you wait long enough in this league, the opposing player will find a way to give you the ball without you having to lift a finger (don't because that's hand ball), so why can't you learn to be a little more patient?

I don't even know where to begin. I'm sure I could troll through Youtube and find some compilation videos to prove my point, but I'm bigger than that. I would be better off directing you to the Official MLS website so you can watch the highlights yourselves. I guarantee there will be on average one wince-inducing challenge per highlight reel. Does this 'style' of 'play' reflect the sort of crowd the MLS hopes to pull in? If it is, it's not working, unless those empty seats are filled with ghosts or beings made of pure energy who enjoy a few career-threatening tackles now and again.

I can guarantee the person who forked over half of his or her savings to watch the Ultimate Fighting Championship is not going to want to come and watch a sport beloved by Europeans for its subtlety, physical expressiveness, and deftness of touch, so why market to that guy? Everyone in my country knows that bone-crunching hits and bloody brawling play no part in hockey's popularity *ahem*, so why can't the USA learn to be a-okay with the thrills of fair play?


soccerorb said...

I always thought the "dirty" play was part of the overall MLS package of generally inferior football. The players aren't as skilled as their Euro/Latin American/African counterparts, hence the abundance of clumsy, dangerous tackles.

Dirty football as a deliberate component of MLS' marketing strategy? Well, that's more interesting than my unimaginative notion that it was just because the players weren't very good.

I wonder how that would work here in Chicago? There are so many children from local soccer clubs who attend the games, as the Fire try to build a fan base for the future. Imagine those soccer moms' horror if their kids witnessed an injury like Eduardo da Silva's! He plays for Arsenal in the EPL and suffered a compound fracture resulted from a terrible tackle by some guy on (just-relegated) Birmingham.

Or the time several years ago where Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgarian star of the 94 WC), who by all accounts deliberately injured a college player in an exhibition match. Witnesses said the sound of his leg cracking was like nothing they'd heard before or since.

But then Stoichkov did play with the Fire at the end of his career, so he probably picked up that dirty trick in MLS.

Richard Whittall said...

I disagree that bad tackles come from poor play alone. The USL should by all standards be the most bone-crunching of the lot but it's actually pretty tame even by Premier League standards...

soccerorb said...

Agreed that risky play should not simply be inversely related to quality, but I still don't see how violent play could be encouraged by the league. Referees and linesmen answer to FIFA, not MLS. Now I'm curious enough that I'd like to find out about variation in fouls and cards issued. That still wouldn't tell us if a tackle that earns a yellow in Serie A is merely winked at by MLS referees.

How on earth did I get into the position of defending MLS? Especially right now, less than a month after Moscow, when my sensibilities haven't adjusted and it's almost unwatchable? (Oops, I'll get in trouble for that one...) I've got to stop reading so many interesting soccer blogs, I guess.