Not my usual blog post today. Life will return to normal very soon...
I felt I had to blog after yesterday's disappointing soccer game that saw the Seattle Sounders managing to scrape a 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamos (and me, a season ticket holder, leaving the stadium at half-time for the first time ever in my life). Here are the contending reasons for the poor showing:
Players - Despite 15 shots in the first half of play, Seattle didn't convert a single one. Poor show
Referee - Despite obvious serious fouls in the 3rd and 71st minutes, Seattle were not rewarded with either a sending off or a penalty on Houston
Manager - Sigi Schmid continues to field a team that shows no coordination either up front or on the wings
In my opinion there is no incentive for teams to learn how to play exceptional football and take chances during the regular season here. Teams are satisfied with taking draws along the way, knowing that as long as they stay in contention, mid-table, they will get through to the play-offs. So this is sort of a manager's problem. But the whole league is broken too.
Then there's the referees and linesmen who, unlike every other country in the world once more, don't have to be FIFA qualified to officiate a game. What is wrong with this picture? No wonder they can't make decent decisions when they are needed. Actually, I have to say that generally the refereeing standards in the MLS are abysmal. Repeat - abysmal.
Oh, I guess I should also write about the players too. People criticize the MLS for not attracting the right quality of players to play. It's no wonder. With poor refereeing and managers that don't play the right kind of football, the best players move on. This has already happened with the best two international players that Seattle have had - in only the first two seasons! First Freddie Ljungberg left after 'disagreements' in 2009, and a couple of weeks ago Blaise Nkufo did exactly the same. This points to a management problem to me. There is something wrong in Denamrk as the saying goes. Something terribly wrong.
So, in conclusion, I'd like to blame the players for playing so bad and I'd like to blame the referees for officiating so poorly, but in the end I will blame the team's managers and the MLS system. There are no incentives and a sub-standard level of managers here. Bring in someone from Europe to manage one of these teams. Build something that is hungry to win. Be ruthless with the players. Make them perform. Then sort out the officiating. The players will end up sorting out themselves.
I look at league tables from other countries and after a few games there are huge differences between top and bottom teams. And those things get sorted - by sackings. Here in America it seems to me the public likes to watch a league where everyone is 'even'. Please, please, please, bring some decent soccer to the MLS, otherwise I fear that I may not even last the first 45 minutes the next time I am at the stadium. Thank God there are still 36,000 other Seattle Sounders fans that will still go to games - for a while.