The Sweeper: The Mediocrity of MLS?
DC United’s club president Kevin Payne has never lacked for chutzpah, and after a season in which the team launched a website called “We Win Trophies” but have failed to make the playoffs for the second year in a row, arguing that DC had at least earned some kind of a moral victory for their style of play is quite something. “We don’t want to play like Colorado or New England, which most of the season sat with eight or nine guys behind the ball. How many people go to watch Colorado or New England play? That’s a problem for our league,” Payne told Soccer Insider.
“We can’t play like we’re a team desperately trying to remain in 14th place in the Premiership. Our market isn’t there yet. They want to see something that is entertaining, and D.C. United has always had a way of playing. Given a choice, we would rather attack than cynically defend. You look at the way Real Salt Lake played when they came here [a 0-0 tie in May] and sat 10 guys behind the ball. You don’t have to do that. Sometimes that is the best way to get a result — if you don’t care about the product, if you don’t care about advertising your league. Long term, who wants to watch that?”
Payne’s comment might have more to do with the fact he’s feeling the pressure of living up to the standard himself and DC set in the early years of the league, as the club has won just two trophies since 2000 (the MLS Cup in 2004 and the US Open Cup last year), after dominating in MLS’ first four seasons, winning a remarkable five major championships (three league titles, one US Open Cup and one CONCACAF Champions Cup). While the cynical play of many teams in MLS is a concern marketing-wise, there is actually no bar to playing good football and winning, as Columbus has showed two years in a row. DC simply aren’t good enough these days and that has much more to do with the personnel decisions Payne’s leadership has made than whether or not they’re trying to play pretty football.
- Speaking of failure, Toronto FC supporters “won’t stand” for continued ineptness on the field, writes Paul James in the Globe and Mail, warning owners MLSE face a backlash and “should prepare themselves for an onslaught”. Despite the club’s profitability and packed stadium, TFC have yet to make the playoffs in three seasons in MLS, quite an achievement in a league that still manages to reward mediocrity (New England and Real Salt Lake are both entering the playoffs with a negative goal difference). This issue has been bubbling under the surface for a while in Toronto, as everyone there knows MLSE have been happy to see their hockey team, the Maple Leafs, achieve little while selling plenty of tickets. Is James right, and will TFC fans force MLSE to act, unlike the Maple Leafs soporific suits who pack the stands come what may?
- Who is running Rangers? The financial crisis in Glasgow continues to deepen, and impact further on the playing side. Rangers are $50m in debt and haven’t bought a player since the summer of 2008, with manager Walter Smith questioning who was running affairs, with Lloyds Bank’s “business transformation specialist” on the board.
- Meanwhile, Twohundredpercent updates us on the crisis at Liverpool (yes, we should have a moratorium on the use of the word ‘crisis’ here on PI), looking at the battle between the growing protesting group led by the Spirit of Shankly and the club’s ownership, asking as we did last week if Liverpool are the next Leeds. “SOS, the acronym surely no accident, have combined with ‘Share Liverpool FC’ in providing more detailed analysis of Liverpool’s finances than they are given credit for, certainly by the club, who accuse them of un-necessary ‘scaremongering’.”
- Alex Ferguson is facing the music in his ongoing war of words with referees, charged by the Football Association and now being accused by senior referees of not understanding the laws of the game.
- Blogistuta comments on an interesting hire by Roma, who have given the brilliantly named job of Coordinator and optimizer of human resources in the sporting area to a higly successful volleyball coach. I always find this sort of cross-sport recruiting interesting, so let’s see if he can reinvigorate a struggling club.
- Jamie Carragher is back to his best according to Rafa Benitez, who apparently didn’t notice the rapidly aging centre-back practically running backwards in his effort to keep up with Michael Owen’s zimmerframe run to goal on Sunday.
The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.