Socceraholic


I’ve been watching a lot of games lately, and the games keep on coming.  So many leagues, so many competitions.  I’m going to need a break.

Canada 1:0 Mexico (8 November 2010):

The final of the CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup was a bit anti-climactic as both sides had already earned a spot in the 2011 Women’s World Cup through their wins in the semi-finals.  Host nation and giant-killers Mexico returned to Earth after eliminating the United States. Canadian captain Christine Sinclair scored the only goal after her side was awarded a penalty kick on a handball in the box.  As I noted in my last post, I look forward to these two nations representing North America in the World Cup (with the US hopefully joining them) and the continued improvement of competition in women’s soccer worldwide.

Chelsea 1:0 Fulham (10 November 2010):

While others tuned into the Manchester Derby, I was drawn to the less-heralded West London Derby which I imagine is a one-sided affair akin to William & Mary’s athletic rivalry with University of Virginia (that is Chelsea and Virginia are indifferent to those who want to be rivals with them).  Playing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge where Chelsea have not lost or even conceded a goal in Premiership play this season was a mighty challenge for Fulham.  Impressively, Fulham put a lot of pressure on Chelsea and controlled the ball for long periods of time with a goal seeming due any moment.  Sadly, it did not come, but I believe that Fulham wore Chelsea down for their match with Sunderland on Saturday.

Everton 1:1 Bolton (10 November 2010):

Here’s a game that can be looked at in two ways.  On the one hand Everton played a great game, controlling the run of play and putting a lot of pressure on the Bolton goal.  Bolton’s only really good moment was the classic counterattack that lead to their goal.  Everton should have really scored a goal or two an won this game, so the end result is rather disappointing.  On the other, after going down 0-1 in the 78th minute and then losing a player to a red card in the 84th minute, I’d pretty much resigned myself to an Everton loss.  Jermaine Beckford’s dramatic goal in the third minute of stoppage time was a pleasant surprise that salvaged a point from the match.

FC Barcelona 3:1 Villareal CF (13 November 2010):

Another exciting game featuring Barça’s attacking style as they faced a rival for one of the top spots in La Liga.  David Villa and Lionel Messi (2) scored to lead Barcelona to an important victory.

Colorado 1:0 San Jose (13 November 2010):

The MLS  “Eastern” Conference Championship was one by one of the most exciting goals I’ve seen in my soccer-watching experiment.  At first, I thought the goal was scored by Omar Cummings  on a brilliant assist by Kosuke Kimura, but it turns out that Cummings never touched the ball and at best distracted Earthquakes’ goalkeeper Jon Busch as Kimura’s shot rolled in.  That was enough to send Colorado to the MLS Cup Final for the first time since 1997.

AZ Alkmaar 2:0 Ajax (14 November 2010):

Ajax played a road match in Alkmaar,  a city I totally wanted to visit on my recent trip to the Netherlands because of their famed cheese market.  The teams slogged through the rain with neither side getting their passing side started or managing a good shot on goal for much of the match.  AZ (pronounced Ah-Zed by the English commentator) scored at the 74th minute and put the death knell in the 89th minute with Ajax looking pretty much anemic in return.  This disappointing loss was the second straight in Eredivisie play.

Los Angeles 0:3 FC Dallas (14 November 2010):

I have a bias against Los Angeles and LA sports teams in general, and against the LA Galaxy in particular due to their frequent MLS success (especially two MLS Cup victories at the expense of New England).  So I admit a certain bit of schadenfreude seeing FC Dallas not just defeat, but also embarrass, the Galaxy in the Western Conference Final.  Now we should see two good teams in the MLS Cup Final with no “stories” other than the fact that the Eastern Conference champion is from a city 8° longitude west of the Western Conference champion’s hometown.  Sports in the USA have never been strong on geography.

Speaking of the MLS cup, I was listening to the a recent A Football Report podcast and the MLS playoff format was discussed.  The European commentators were pretty much dismissive of the American playoff system emphasizing that the team that plays best over the course of a long season.  A fair point and there is much I like about the European way of doing things but I also find it anticlimactic to end a season without a championship game or series.

I’m probably going way behind my ken, but I thought up a system for the MLS that would reward the best team(s) of the regular season while still having an exciting playoff system.  This concept assumes that the MLS will expand to 20 clubs by 2012 and at that point I’d divide them into two geographical conferences of 10 teams each (listed below).  There would be no inter-conference play and thus each team would face one another 4 times (2 home/2 away) for a total of 36 regular season games.

The advantages of two ten-team conferences include:

  • Encouraging regional rivalries
  • Allowing for fans to travel to more away matches.  While I never expect this to be as big a factor as it is in Europe, I would say that a diehard Red Bulls supporter, for example, would be able to go to more games in New England, Philadelphia, and Washington than in Seattle and San Jose.
  • Increase the draw for CONCACAF Champions League, US Open Cup, North American SuperLiga, and Canadian Championship matches due to the novelty of teams from the two conferences facing one another.
  • Reduce wear and tear on players traveling long-distance.  European players have complained about the long road trips necessary in the United States, so perhaps more players from abroad would be attracted to playing in the MLS.
  • And it would probably save on travel expenses.  MLS could even tout it as a green initiative.

The top 3 teams would qualify for the playoffs for a total of 6 teams (down from the currently overgenerous 8).  In the conference semifinals the top-ranked teams would earn a by while the 2nd and 3rd place teams faced one another in home-away aggregate goal series.  The winners of the semifinals would face the first place teams in a one-game conference championship hosted by the first place team.  The conference champions would then play the MLS Cup Final at a neutral location.

Probably a crazy idea, but I think it would be more fair and entertaining than the current system.  Of course, what would really make it work would be if the MLS developed a second division either through expansion or collaboration with the new NASL and begin a promotion/relegation system but I think that’s a long way off, if ever.

Eastern Conference

  • Chicago Fire
  • Columbus Crew
  • D.C. United
  • Kansas City Wizards
  • Montreal Impact
  • New England Revolution
  • New York Red Bulls
  • Philadelphia Union
  • Toronto FC
  • 2012 Expansion Team (New York / Detroit ?)

Western Conference

  • C.D. Chivas USA
  • Colorado Rapids
  • F.C. Dallas
  • Houston Dynamo
  • Los Angeles Galaxy
  • Portland Timbers
  • Real Salt Lake
  • San Jose Earthquakes
  • Seattle Sounders F.C.
  • Vancouver Whitecaps F.C.

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