Thursday, October 29, 2009

What is MLS? Apparently Not Open to Criticism

I've written that Garber keeps his ideological cards close to his chest, but in fining DCU Prez Kevin Payne $5000 today for calling a spade a spade—that the onfield product in MLS is not good enough and won't draw in more fans until it is—means that the guy isn't hearing what needs to be heard.

This is really not good, especially in light of the fact Payne didn't even mention bringing better players with more money, everyone's favourite MLS bugbear. Payne instead said the league needs to move away from stiff formations, and slow, defensive play. This is at least in part what I've been trying to push lately—that tactically, MLS should be taking advantage of the current egalitarian set-up to experiment with more open, attacking football.

The gist of my frustration, and part of what Payne speaks to, is that if the league can't bring in the players, nor threaten teams with relegation, and include half the league in a knockout competition for the one trophy worth winning in the league, then bloody hell, why not open things up, why not bring in coaching staff worthy of bringing fitness levels up, dropping median ages so we can move away from league play that makes Serie A look like Space Invaders?

Whether it was for specifically calling out other clubs or not (we're all in this together everybody, even though we're different football clubs in direct competition in the league!), Payne is out of pocket for 5 Gs, and lord knows the rest of league isn't going to pipe up anytime soon. We can safely say Garber isn't on board with promoting these sorts of changes. But beyond that, managers throughout the world call out other clubs for parking the bus or not attacking enough; why should MLS be any different?

I dunno about this league.


Jason Davis said...

Richard, Richard Richard...

Fining Payne for criticizing the league, and therefore making it look bad, is not only in Garber's job description, he'd be remiss if he didn't do it (or something similar). Garber's ideologies have absolutely nothing to do with it. There are a million analogies I can draw here, but I don't think it's necessary.

Part of Garber's job is to protect the league's image; whether or not Payne was factually correct or not isn't his concern. In fact, I think it's unfortunate that you use this action to draw the conclusion that Garber isn't open to the ideas you present, since one really has nothing to do with the other.

I think you're probably right that Garber isn't necessarily open to change, but I don't agree that you can determine that from what happened today.

Richard Whittall said...

Fair enough; not being the legalistic type, I accept your point about Garber having little recourse but to punish Payne considering his attachments to the league proper. And I'm also willing to accept Payne may have known what he was in for having said it.

Certainly as a sitting member of the MLS board of governors and marketing committee, it was impolitic for him to speak out of turn.

But that in itself may be part of the problem with making progress—everyone with serious connections to the league having to smile on the surface while leaving inner MLS tensions to the imaginations of the media.

Richard Whittall said...

I should also mention that I don't think much of the intention behind Payne's remarks, or generally, Payne himself. I just don't think that should detract from what he had to say...

Jason Davis said...

I agree that the league failing to address its failings is a problem. I'm also in agreement that what Payne said was more sour grapes than anything else.

Are there problems? Absolutely. A more transparent, frank assessment of where MLS stands is probably called for, I just don't see it happening.

Oh, and there's that business of the CBA; the league isn't going to anything to harm it's position with the players, and an admission that changes need to be made would be germane to conceding that more money should be spent. Practical matters will always trump any high-minded notions that MLS should be open and honest about things.

Jason Davis said...

"failing to address its failings"? That's just terrible.