The Sweeper: Shootouts to return to MLS regular season?

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Today’s Talking Point

Shootouts after regular season ties seemed to have been confined to MLS’ bad-ideas-graveyard, but when an owner of a successful MLS expansion franchise wants to bring them back, you have to wonder what is going on his head. Real Salt Lake’s owner Dave Checketts was infused by the excitement of the penalty shootout that followed the draw in the All-Star game last week at his Rio Tinto stadium, and has been lobbying MLS Commissioner Don Garber and other owners to bring it back.

“If this doesn’t make a case for the shootout being brought back, I don’t know what does,” Checketts told the Salt Lake Tribune. “I said, ‘Look at the people staying, standing, screaming.’ It was a classic match-up of the two best Americans who have ever played that position, right here in our stadium. It was classic.” Classic! A moment we’ll never forget in a match that meant nothing!

Is it even worth either taking Checketts seriously or making fun of him?  His argument seems to be that shootouts haven’t hurt ice hockey (Checketts also owns the NHL’s St. Louis Blues), but a return to shootouts to end regular season ties would once again hurt MLS’ credibility with fans of, well, competitive soccer as it’s played worldwide — we’ve known for decades that shootouts are exciting in the moment, but that doesn’t mean such lotteries are something we should encourage, or we may as well start each game with one and skip the boring 90 minutes of actual football.

Worldwide

  • Chelsea’s Sporting Director Frank Arneson has defended youth development at the club. Four years into taking on the role, not a single first team players has come through, but Arneson claims the plan all along was to start producing players only in 2010.  “It was never the objective that I should be delivering two talents for the best team from 2007 on a yearly basis. I don’t know how that misunderstanding has surfaced. You don’t create talents at the assembly line. Patience is a virtue. In a top club like Chelsea you do not waltz into the team at the age of 18-19 years.” But as Chelsea look to splash the cash again on established stars, the route to the first team seems pretty jammed up.
  • Meanwhile, at Arsenal, an academy player does look likely to waltz into the first team: Jack Wilshere, who has been with the club since 2001, has the pundits drooling after a strong pre-season. The hype machine is in danger of spinning out of control before the season has even begun on the 17-year old old who does look likely to make a splash in the Premier League — Wilshere is already touted as the next Paul Gascoigne, and as an outside shot for England’s 2010 World Cup squad.
  • A curious tale in Brazil, as Nautica’s Vagner Silva “received his second yellow card for changing shorts during the match without permission from the referee,” according to 101 Great Goals.
  • Fifa.com has its usual Monday review of the leagues we sometimes forget about, from Korea to Singapore.

North America

  • What was in the water at the bottom of the Western Conference this weekend? On Saturday, the awful FC Dallas — fresh off of selling their best player, Kenny Cooper, to 1860 Munich — crushed the Kansas City Wizards 6-0, with Jeff Cunningham scoring four. Then on Sunday, Conference bottom-feeders San Jose destroyed the surging Seattle Sounders 4-0.
  • Andy B’s weekly MLS attendance analysis is up on Big Soccer. For the season, the average is 15,412 leaguewide. There has been considerable talk about the falling numbers this year, but this number is still the third highest in league history at this point in the season, behind only last year and the inaugural year (same goes for median attendance, incidentally). Considering the state of the economy and that there are three more teams than just three years ago, the picture is actually pretty rosy when we can consider that the league is growing it’s aggregate numbers substantially while not hurting the averages. Philadelphia will continue this trend when the Union joins the league in 2010, with 9,000 season tickets sold already.
  • There’s more and more expansion chatter about Montreal, and it seems only a matter of time before the Impact are “promoted” to MLS. A good move by Garber, but yet another blow for the USL — they will be losing their two strongest remaining franchises with Portland also headed to MLS in a couple of years.

Video of the Day

Hey! I saw this in person! The Red Stars defeated the LA Sol 3-1 at Toyota Park last night in front of almost 8,000 fans, who saw (according to Fifa in 2008) the top two women’s players in the world duke it out — LA’s Marta against Chicago’s Cristiane. Unfortunately, the game meant nothing in the standings, but the crowd and the quality of play made it a marquee moment for women’s soccer in Chicago. And Natalie Spilger had a couple of quality flip-throw-ins featured in the video — they are almost as effective as they are entertaining.

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