by West Coast Craig

Home Depot Center — Let’s all take a breather now, shall we? Go on, in through the nose, hold it, now out through the mouth. Doesn’t that feel better? That was a rather intense week of baseball just put in the rearview mirror, and nerves are sure to be a bit frayed. Fortunately there are only two games on the docket for today, neither of them all that enticing (viewing or wagering wise). The NBA Finals are over, and here in Los Angeles, as the prerecorded pleas from the Lakers stated (last night’s wasn’t anywhere on the interwebs, but here’s one from a few years ago), we know how to “celebrate with dignity.” Now we just have to brace ourselves for the self indulgent victory parade (hilarious…check out this Onion article from last week, then this LA Times one from just a few days later).

So in this lull I figured I might just discuss something that’s definitely virgin territory on this site…soccer. Is that the sound of hundreds of browsers being clicked off right now? Anybody still reading this? Friend of www.MeetTheMatts.com (FOMTM), JG Clancy has been clamoring for more MLS talk on here, so I know he’s still tuned in. I did, however, mention the MLS to Shorter Matt, and he incredulously spit back:

“What’s that?! Soccer?! Froggin’ soccer?! What the tile!?” – Shorter Matt

I imagine that’s the reaction of most Americans… and it’s too bad. It’s partly because somehow, even when nearly every kid in the country plays it on some early level, it gets slipped to the margins in adulthood. Hockey just went through its most exciting playoffs and a wonderful seven-game Stanley Cup Finals – and maybe 4% of the country watched. It’s too bad that the MLS would be happy to have that; games broadcast during prime time get about a .2 rating, or roughly 300,000 viewers. By comparison, YES Network reports that it’s average rating so far this year is a 4.5. Which leads to this, featuring another FOMTMer.

It’s too bad, primarily because the MLS sucks. Yeah, that might not be fair, but it’s true. League President Don Garber, who spent 16 years in the NFL front offices before switching to futbol, may have had the right idea at first by trying to instill the lockdown on salaries and the forced parity that keeps all teams mediocre in the hopes of keeping more across-the-board interest, but now it’s reached a point of stagnation. It’s forced, systemic collusion, preventing the world’s top players and coaches from taking a chance.

Fading beauty David Beckham continues to insist he’s committed to the MLS…but we’ll have to wait and see it to believe it, and frankly nobody can blame him for wanting to jump ship like he did. I saw him play here at the relatively nice—if a bit sterile—Home Depot Center, and the guy played hard when he was healthy enough to get out on the pitch, but even with Landon Donovan out there with him he still didn’t have much of a supporting cast (the blame for this must also fall on carrot topped former GM Alexi Lalas, who dismantled a young, fast team to bring in creaky old veterans thinking they might complement Beckham’s style, and set the team back years in the process). The fact is, with Beckham and his salary on board, the team can’t get anybody else who’s any good—and Donovan will surely jump to Europe before long—so the team will continue to stink even when he’s here. Now how is that good for building soccer in this country? It only fuels the I-told-you-so gloating of stodgy old sportswriters who never understood the game in the first place and refuse to give it a chance.

The Galaxy should be the richest team in the league, and they should crush the likes of Real Salt Lake and the expansion Seattle Sounders…but they don’t, and a bona fide coach like Bruce Arena is forced to deal with things like losing 18 players from last year’s squad. Eighteen! The Galaxy have two wins all year, as do the New York Red Bulls. How does that, the two biggest markets having the two lousiest teams, help the league build itself? So fearful of repeating the failure of the NASL thirty years ago, the MLS is preventing itself from becoming the Premier League of today. I’d love to advocate relegation like they do in Europe (the teams that stink get dropped out of the league, and the top teams from the lower division get brought up), but I understand there’s too much money at stake for owners to risk that…but that doesn’t mean eliminate risk altogether! Every league needs dynasties, it needs the powerhouses, the teams that everyone else wants to beat. The way the MLS is set up now, that won’t happen, and despite the great potential that Beckham (watch this later) and so many others can see on these shores, the league won’t really take off until the shackles are first.

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About West Coast Craig 226 Articles
West Coast Craig reports from Hollywood with an endearingly laid back style. A happily married father of two little boys, WCC has an avocado tree in his yard, plays the hot corner in a "Valley" hardball league and always manages to take cool sports-related mini road-trips, often with his immediate clan. He hails from Oneonta, NY but has been "So very L.A." for twenty years, so his sports teams are the Yankees AND the Dodgers, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the L.A. Lakers and the Colorado Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques. WCC loves bacon-wrapped hotdogs and can touch his heel and his ear... with his hand.