Monday, November 23, 2009

What's the One, Simple Thing Garber Could Have Done to Bring Credibility to MLS?

Meet Bob. Bob is an American soccer fan, an avid supporter of the USMNT, and Liverpool FC on weekends, with a soft spot for Barcelona. Bob's seen it all, Champions League group stages, FA Cup replays, La Liga on Sundays. But Bob has never been able to "get into" MLS, for whatever reason. He exactly the sort of character MLS chairman Don Garber was talking about when he told Grant Wahl, “There are still far more soccer fans in this country than there are MLS fans.”

Bob, bored with the American football highlights seemingly on every single channel, happens upon ESPN at 8:30 PM EST last night. Now, keep in mind, Garber wants people like Bob in the MLS fold. Bob considers himself a knowledgeable follower of the game. He's willing to give this a chance; I mean, you're not going to find much live soccer at 8:30 PM on a Sunday evening.

So what's the first thing Bob sees?

That's right, a pitch resembling an abandoned city lot. Bob notices long passes bobbling their way to the feet of waiting wingers, easily picked off by listless full-backs. He sees short passes bungled out to touch. He sees attacks forming almost as soon as they're snuffed out when a player is forced to take too many touches.

Bob isn't thinking, if only there was more money for better players, more DP slots, so it could be a better league. Bob is wondering why the pitch looks like complete and utter shit for a so-called Cup Final. So, after a tedious first half, Bob declares that this is mickey mouse stuff, watches the Defoe highlights again and goes to sleep, vowing never to watch an MLS game again.

Sometimes bringing in American soccer fans to MLS comes down to the small stuff.


Matthew N said...

Couldn't have said it better myself. Though to be fair, I am almost exactly like Bob, and I think I will tune in for more MLS (as long it isn't on a turf field).

Brian said...

This post is a microcosm of the idiocy of most criticism of MLS. You say "What's the One, Simple Thing Garber Could Have Done to Bring Credibility to MLS?" and then proceed to list at least four things you don't like - the pitch, bad long passes, bad short passes and players taking too many touches.

Well, which is the one thing? And how does all of this fall at the feet of Don Garber?

The league isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination. It needs to continue to improve just as it has slowly over the past 14 years. But if Bob is content with watching one team give up nine goals in one of the world's best leagues instead of watching the MLS final because it isn't perfect, maybe Bob is as much or more of the problem than Garber or the owners or anything else.

Snobbery starts with the snob.

eltigreferoz said...

I'm not sure I agree. Garber wanted the final in Seattle, to both celebrate their new team and to further embrace the sport there. If your friend Bob has a problem with the pitch, it's not Garber's fault, but Seattle's for having to play at Qwest field. The confetti was actually from the festivities beforehand, the divets in the field from the Seahawks. It's too bad the pitch (turf, in fact) wasn't in the best shape, but without tons of money, a new stadium, there wasn't much option. Garber could have held the final somewhere else, but the point was to give it to Seattle. Once that club grows, and this league grows, I'm sure pitch improvement is high on the list for programs to start. But at the moment the priorities are salaries,player acquisition and fan networking--all of which are probably just a little more important at this point. If Bob is complaining because the pitch is not as nice as Liverpool's or Barcelona's or whatever foreign team he'd rather support than a team from the country he lives in that he can actually go and view in person and support week after week, then perhaps he's better doing just sitting at home and watching his tv all the time. The MLS is only 15-years-old, financially stable and out of the red (unlike Liverpool or Barcelona), and is growing year after year. But it's going to take time, sorry. So stop whining and start supporting your local team.

Richard Whittall said...

Brian - I tried to make the point that the pitch played a big role in the faulty passes and the bobbled touches i.e. the pitch had a negative effect on the quality of play. If I failed in that regard, I apologize.

eltigeferoz - Sorry, this is the MLS CUP FINAL we're talking about, not a league match. This is the one game MLS wants to spend the big bucks on making nice. It's not a stretch to say a quality pitch would have made a huge difference in the quality of play (see above).

Jeff said...

I agree 100% with your point, Rich (Brian, learn how to pull a main point out of an article, was it that bloody hard for you?). In fact, I have proof of the Canadian side of "Bob" in a friend I invited over to watch the Cup final with me last night.

Jordan, an avid CMNT fan and fellow Voyageur, was shocked at the ugliness of the turf for last night's game. We had a good half hour discussion regarding it during that dismal first half. He had yet to see a game played in Seattle, and thought it looked uglier than the BMO turf (that's sayin something!).

Kyle said...

I have to ask eltigreforez... how are there divots in a turf field? That comment seems to point to a lack of knowledge about this subject.

Matt said...

While the FieldTurf pitch does change the way the game is played I think your friend must not have watched much MLS if he thinks the pitch "played a big role in the faulty passes and the bobbled touches"...that is simply MLS whether on grass or on FieldTurf. Yeah, it's a little better on grass...but not much.

mastarna said...

I guess the final could have been at Houston- there's a little grass along with its sand. Sorry, but I'll take good field turf over lousy 'grass' any day...