A View from Afar / Commentary

11 soccer heresies from afar

Photo: Daniel Studio

Let’s buck conventional wisdom for a day. Here are some contrarian views on Philadelphia and American soccer, and we’ll knock out 11 of them like last week, just because we can.

Richie Marquez could be the Union’s most valuable field player.

People spent the offseason talking so much about the army of attacking midfielders the Union signed, and rightly so.

Meanwhile, Richie Marquez’s return to the starting lineup against Columbus helped stabilize a defense that had looked so shaky the week before. He put Kei Kamara in his pocket most of the game, until Kamara got free on a set piece to score late. Still, Marquez is now the unquestioned back line leader, and in the absence of a shutdown defensive midfielder in front of him or a veteran center back beside him, he’ll be even more important than anticipated.

American soccer is fun to follow in unique ways that European soccer is not.

You would think that I would enjoy soccer more now that I’ve moved abroad to Europe. It’s actually the opposite. I enjoy it less. In Italy, corruption, lack of competition, poor stadiums, often unsafe fan environments, and poor economic situations for most clubs have really hurt the professional game. Even here in Naples, where Napoli is just three points off the pace for the Scudetto, it is still Juventus, the most financially healthy club in Italy, at the top of the table.

Meanwhile, American soccer offers things you just don’t find in major European soccer. There is a certain “little guy” quality, a romantic simplicity that goes with a game that remains marginalized in the eyes of much of the mainstream but is actually anything but marginal. Soccer is no longer the sport of the future in America, but rather the sport of the present in the early stages of “making the leap.” One simply has to take in the experience in some of the league’s best locations, such as Seattle, Portland, Toronto, Kansas City, etc., to understand that, where an energetic soccer culture combines with an atmosphere safe for children and modern stadiums to provide an experience very unlike many European games. Yet, MLS is just small enough to be personal, for players to come across as real people and not celebrities, for the fan-player gap to be so small that you can connect with a team in ways far less common in Europe.

Plus, you have no idea who’s going to win week to week. There is so much parity that every club has a shot. (Even Colorado!) This is one reason why, in contrast to what I wrote above, that the English league is so much fun to follow this year, with Leicester still topping the standings with just eight games left to go. This sort of thing so rarely happens in Europe, and this exception highlights the norm by contrast. Imagine a Leicester or a Bournemouth or even a West Ham in the championship mix every year. That is MLS.

Except this is awesome …

I was in Paris on Sunday when Paris Saint-Germain clinched the Ligue 1 title away at Troyes with an astounding 9-0 victory. Cars drove up and down Champs Elysees and around the Arc de Triomphe, with people honking their horns, waving PSG scarves and hanging out the windows. It reminded me of when the Giants won the Super Bowl when I was a kid growing up in New Jersey. Is MLS to this level yet? Well, Portland was last year.

(I captured some video and photos with a cell phone, but naturally, I forgot to upload it to PSP. I’ll see if I can update this post later with the video.)

Maybe Amobi Okugo is a better center back than midfielder.

This debate raged for years while Okugo was with the Union. Many criticized then-Union head coach John Hackworth for believing Okugo was a better center back, a view Hackworth held dating back to Okugo’s time as a youth international.

After Okugo’s disastrous first season away from the Union, his first playing almost exclusively as a defensive midfielder, the question bodes revisiting, because it’s potentially relevant to Philadelphia now.

Okugo would be a good option to fill Maurice Edu’s place at d-mid if he could play as well there as he did in 2014. Then again, Okugo and the Curtin-Albright team almost certainly want nothing to do with each other. That may seem a shame to Union fans, as many would welcome Okugo back with open arms now that he is a free agent and Edu will likely miss half the season due to injury.

Tranquillo Barnetta may not have been a good signing after all.

Sidelined with osteoarthritis? This condition can happen to anyone, but it’s most often associated with people over the age of 65. Does last year’s designated player signee have the knees of a 65-year-old? It should come as no surprise that someone who has undergone multiple knee surgeries would have subsequent knee problems, but the diagnosis available to the public sounds downright awful.

Keegan Rosenberry looks good on the ball, but he also increasingly looks like a defensive liability.

If you’re an inverted winger playing on the left, you fake left, go right, and shoot. Rosenberry bites every time and sometimes even spins like a top. Opposing teams now have two games worth of film to see this pattern. Let’s see how Rosenberry adjusts and learns.

Ray Gaddis may be the Union’s most underrated player at this point.

Gaddis Island used to be a place where, as Jim Curtin put it, “attackers kind of disappear out there in the island.” Now it’s the island on which Gaddis sits, not playing. Last year, Gaddis made MLSsoccer.com’s mid-season Best XI, as named by analyst Matt Doyle. Gaddis certainly dropped off the second half of the season, but not that much. If he has to start at left back, so be it, but he should be starting somewhere.

Different formations are fun to watch — and often effective. 

NYC FC trotted out a 3-4-3 last week, while Chicago went with a 3-5-2. Both surprised. Both were effective for stretches. And both were definitely fun to watch. Let’s root for more of the same.

Andrew Wenger is the same player he was last year.

He’s just playing somewhere else, on the field and on the map. Some of us — certainly me — predicted that he would be a breakout player last year and make the all-star team. Maybe this is the year. He’s clearly a player with some confidence issues, so let’s see how this year plays out for him in Houston. Most Union fans will probably still cheer for the Pennsylvania native — from afar.

New coaches screw around with player personnel too much.

As much as I liked Chicago’s hiring of Veljko Paunovic as head coach, he so far has made some questionable player personnel evaluations. He and general manager Nelson Rodriguez deemed Harry Shipp as surplus, and Shipp is already thriving in Montreal. Meanwhile, Paunovic chose for some reason to replace Sean Johnson in goal, despite him being one of the league’s best keepers. The goalkeeper change looks like a classic case of a new manager in any line of work moving chairs around on the deck just to show everyone he is making changes.

Three things are not enough.

We usually steer clear of commenting on MLSsoccer.com here, but the fact that soccer media coverage remains so scattered makes it an important source of information, with often solid material produced by good soccer writers like Dave Zeitlin, Matt Doyle and others.

That said, the site’s new model for game recaps is not sufficient. Two to four paragraphs of review and three separate observations of various aspects of the game is far from sufficient. No, it’s not necessary to follow the PSP model. You don’t need that much detail on every game in the league. But at least you could spare 300 words per game. Seriously, this isn’t hard. Poor editorial decision. Fix it.

That last point prompts a question: Was this column mostly contrarian, or was it just more common sense?

41 Comments

  1. pragmatist says:

    I’m going to agree with the Gaddis point. People are seriously concerned with Fabinho’s defensive abilities, and we have a better left back sitting on the bench.
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    I admit that Ray offers much less going forward than Fabinho does. But he offers a ton more defensively. If Fabinho has another poor outing, there needs to be a quick hook and get Ray back out there. He was a lock-down back while playing the left. His troubles didn’t emerge until he was moved to the right.
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    There was likely more to it than just switching fields, but he has too much talent to sit on the bench while someone else gets burned on the field.
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    That said, Fabinho looked better last weekend. If he continues to trend upwards, this may be a case of too many players, not enough spots. And with the high-line philosophy, Ray may be a square peg in a round hole.

    • Trade Fabi ASAP. Maybe the rookie can be the Gaddis back-up until ES finds us a better option.

      • Section 114 (Formerly) says:

        I presume someone has that list of teams that called about him during the 2014-15 postseason someplace. What do you mean, there never was a list?

      • You never know. Many were fooled by Fabi last year. Could happen again. Didn’t someone rank Fabi as a player of the week last week? ES just has to time it right.

    • And for whatever it’s worth, Fabinho improved week to week last year. He could be a “slow starter.”
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      But yes, I’d keep him on a short leash. In years past, you maybe needed to trade some defense for the offense he provides going forward. I don’t think that’s the case any more. I’m willing to live with defensive errors from Rosenberry because he’s young and learning. If they plugged Washington in over on the left, I’d live with mistakes there, too, for the same reason. But if I’m playing a veteran in other outside back position, I expect defense-first this year.

  2. My thoughts exactly on Gaddis and Rosenberry comments.

    Hope Rosenberry corrects the issue. Again, I’m a bit concerned he is not fast enough for the one V one. Not sure though, need to see more of him.

  3. Old Soccer,Coach says:

    I come at being contrarian from a history background rather than journalism, and from the school within tHe discipline that says an historian should be a hangIng judge. Hence I did not find the column written in a style that I readily identified as contrarian; eleven observations were offered, but were not introduced by identifying that to which they were contrary and those opposites were not destroyed as the dust of oblivion.
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    Hence I answer your final question, common sense, not contrarian.
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    Especially with Maurice Edu sidelined, I disagree with the idea of inserting Ray Gaddis. Adding Gaddis to Carroll means that fully one third of your back six are poor offense initiators. Carroll alone dampens offensive effectiveness noticeably. Add Gaddis and you are forced to play bunker and long ball.
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    The observation on Rosenberry is not contrarian, it is rather observed data, a flaw. Play Ilsinho out on the left flank against him in scrimmage and encourage Ilsinho to fake to the end line and drive to the middle. No, Ilsinho is not Arjen Robben, but it would give the kid credible practice reps to try to learn. Then follow Ilsinho with Alberg, Fernandes and Pontius, and have Nogueira and Edu take him aside and talk through reading the key indicators that a cut back is coming. If Rosenberry is as smart as Curtin claims, he’ll figure it out.

    • I think Curtin’s biggest line-up mistake to date is Fabi as the starter and Gaddis on the bench.(Note Blake has most saves in league b/c defense is not good, but Blake is good). Gaddis plugs one hole, now you only have 1 average to below average defender on the other side. I agree with the offensive dead weight comment if Gaddis is in there with Carroll at the same time. That’s where the coach needs to be better. I would stick Creavalle in there with Nogs instead of Carroll. Actually, I would put Alberg in there 1st with Nogs if Alberg is up to it fitness wise.

    • +1 OSC. It’s called training. Well played sir.

    • Heh heh heh. Nicely done.

  4. Dan, I’d have to vote common sense.
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    With Marquez, I agree. But I also think it wouldn’t have been so obvious, had he started the first game. Against Columbus, he just continued his excellent play from last year (which I believe most of us would have expected).
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    On Gaddis and Rosenberry: Rosenbery does look confident on the ball. But very scary defensively. I think Gaddis needs to get a start. Some would say exchange Gaddis for Fabi, but I’d sit Rosenberry at this point.

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    Dan, once again, a great piece.

    • The union’s approach to team building this year is much different than most teams in general from what I see. In a rebuild, teams tend to lean on older, experienced vets as defenders with an injection of fearless youth for the attackers. The prevailing common logic behind that is that defense is more about organization, communication, and repetition. By this logic, the best thing we can do is to not tinker too much with the formula. Let fabinho play into form like he did last year. Let rosenberry adapt and learn with Marquez yelling at him game after game. You see flashes of his talent (see the tackle on higuain to set the second goal in motion). It’s a process. Don’t be so quick to go straight back to Gaddis at the first sign of trouble.
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      Vision. Philosophy. Plan. As El P would say

      • If Jim wants to win 10 games at home and wants to make Talen a fortress and also realizes his job is on the line, I think he should start Gaddis. Plus add in Rosenberry is a local lad and the pressure that goes along with starting at home, in the home opener. I’m not saying Gaddis gets every game after. Just this one at home. There’s nothing wrong with rotating players during a long season and the kid can still learn things sitting on the bench. Of course I’m assuming Ray is fit enough to play. If he isn’t or Rosenberry starts anyway, I won’t be heart broken or anything. I just have a feeling that starting Ray at home, this weekend, is a good idea.

      • Absolutely, I can see not wanting Rosenberry in for this one. The issue I’m having right now is putting wins now ahead of player and style development. Some of the harshest criticism I read in the comments here last year was that we didn’t just lose, but we lost UGLY. Putting Ray back in needs to be in line with our development plan for Keegan and the style and attitude we’re trying to instill in our players. It’s an easy sell to tell me that we should keep Keegan out of high pressure situations, its a bit harder to convince me that the game will be more attractive with Ray in it (although the scoreline might well be)

  5. Jim Presti says:

    Bigger issue for Mlssoccer.com: Enough with the 4 minute highlights videos where about 2 minutes are four different replays. Make it 8 minutes with actual context and independent commentary. Absolutely ridiculous.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      All part of the traveling MLS and US Soccer Ass Clown circus. Huge huge issue with ‘our’ increased learning and sophistication.
      .
      Mr Kite and Mr Henderson for all to see next on the trapeze.

  6. I thought I was going nuts last week when I saw a few comments about Rosenberry looking solid in defense; I was screaming at my TV at the end of the Columbus match, demanding to know if Keegan had ever played fullback before or if he should be plying his trade as a winger instead.

  7. I certainly cant fault the atmosphere at Talen/PPL Park, even though the team is frustrating at times.
    I’d like to attend a match in one of those enormo-domes across the pond, but I suspect it would be like an NFL game here – any seats I could afford would require binoculars, and what are the chances of getting stuff signed afterward or meeting up with the coach or players in the pub?
    Some growth would be great but for now it’s like having a really cool band that not many people know about yet

  8. “Imagine a Leicester or a Bournemouth or even a West Ham in the championship mix every year. That is MLS.”
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    Imagine a Chattanooga or Sacramento or New York Cosmos in the Champions League every year… oh wait…that is most certainly not MLS. From my POV gotta be a bit careful throwing a team that just promoted to the first division as an example of a Champions League team.
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    .
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    In all fairness Diego Costa was turning Patrice Evra around like a top yesterday too… course so was Kinglsey Coman as the same time so. Mastermind that Pep Guardiola is.
    .
    …enjoyable read.

  9. Maybe Paunovic isn’t the genius we missed out on here…benching Sean Johnson is one of his first moves? Can you imagine the chaos here if Blake was shelved on a whim to start Jones? That seems like one of the few places where the Fire didn’t need any adjustments.

    And I couldn’t agree more with the assessment of soccer in America. Parity keeps it fun, smaller scale keeps it accessible to and does encourage so much more interaction between fans, players, and club. The experience can’t be replicated by the other four major sports.

  10. Couldn’t disagree more about how MLS is similar to Leicester or Bournemouth every year. Those clubs had to scratch and claw just to reach the top level, let alone be competitive in it. It’s just not the same and understates their success. Say Philly surprises everyone and fights for the top of the table this year, were still Philadelphia, a major US city. If a Chattanoga, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, etc. had to earn the right through Pro/Rel to get to the top and then surprise everyone, that’s a way more interesting/Cinderella tale. Yes, a pro/rel guy, strong believer in it, highly doubt it will happen. I think MLS has dug too deep of a hole in terms of the league set up and US Soccer/FIFA will never force it on them. Maybe 50+ years from now that will change, but who knows? I’m a massive Union supporter, but I’ll always have a feeling of disappointment with MLS/US Soccer for not conforming to how every other country does it. Sure, MLS is entertaining, but IMHO a lack of pro/rel will always hold it back from improving. I say all this knowing most people will sigh while reading it, but I think it’s a real problem. And also, if the Union got relegated, I wouldn’t go away and not show to as many home games as possible, cause that’s what real supporters do. If we get relegated, we deserve it.

    • “We deserve it.”

      Who? The fans that show up every game to support the team? Why should we (and this goes for any team, not just the Union) suffer because the owner, who we have no input into, hires a front office, who we have no input into, that can’t put a winning product on the field? It’s great for the teams that have to fight and claw their way to the top, but fans of a crappy team have to suffer because we happen to root for a team that happens to be crappy? How does that help grow the game in this (or any) country exactly?

      • Oh boy… I’m steering clear of this one. Marc, help him out.
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        Man its nice to know I’m not alone.

      • Haha thanks man, not bad for my first comment ever, right? Been reading your stuff for a while and finally decided to chime in.

        Eric, to start, I’ve never commented before, especially about pro/rel because it’s hard to communicate my whole view. Once again, I doubt it will ever happen or if so, it’ll be a long time from now so this is all hypothetical (to me, unfortunately). When I say we, I meant the organization as a whole. Sure, Sugarman has put a lot of money into the club to get it off the ground and although he’s been frustrating at times, I do appreciate that. He hasn’t focused so much on the product on the field. The Union has not been competitive much if at all in our short history. If the Union were threatened with relegation, ownership would be forced to spend more/work harder to improve the play on the field. The fans, in turn, would not have to sit through season after season watching a rebuild. I certainly don’t think the 76ers deserve a top draft pick year after year of not trying to win games. I don’t think pro/rel should be looked at like some big, scary monster, it seems to work just fine everywhere else on planet Earth.
        Also, we seem to always be striving to have MLS break through in the US media and become as important as the MLB, NFL, NBA, etc. How about adding something unique to the American landscape like pro/rel? Any city that wants to start a team has a path to join the top level. That’s where you have a Leicester or Swansea story. I’d like to see ESPN ignore that type of unique story.
        Also, MLS is moving towards having 30+ teams in the top division. Really? I know we don’t have to be exactly like every European country, but to me, that’s simply ridiculous.
        We seem to be very defensive when it comes to the pro/rel topic. We certainly don’t want the Union to ever go down, but don’t you think the fans of Chattanooga would like/deserve the opportunity to go up?
        Once again Eric, just stating my opinion and we can certainly agree to disagree. I just think fans of other teams in small markets deserve an opportunity without having to find an owner to give 100 million dollars to MLS.

      • MSG’s post below pretty much covers most of my thoughts on this issue, but I wanted to touch on something else as well.

        I don’t like the argument of a team being forced to spend money to be successful. First of all, if every team was forced to spend money, and if every team hypothetically put a better product on the field as a result…guess what? Someone’s still getting relegated at the end. Thus, a team’s investment is for naught. Furthermore, MLS’s salary structure drastically needs to change before this can become a reality. Currently, we live in a world in which the two lowest spending teams finished top of the league last year…which further contradicts the forced spending to be successful model.

        Don’t put too much faith in ESPN…they gravitate more towards the big names than the cinderella stories. I don’t follow basketball much, but I do know that for a number of years, the Miami Heat were the only team in the league. Now, they have been replaced by the Warriors. ESPN would rather have a league with 3-5 big teams than what we have now, and they definitely don’t care about the cinderella story, especially if it’s from a small media market.

        I still haven’t seen a reason why pro/rel is actually helpful. Other than that it works everywhere else (although Portsmouth may have something to say about that). But why? What about it will actually grow soccer in America? Because every city has a chance? With limited spots available, few cities will realize that chance, and fewer still will capitalize on it (i.e. Chelsea, Man U, Man City, and Arsenal are the only EPL winners in the past 20 years…so Watford, Burnley, Middlesborough, etc. have all made it, but haven’t exactly done anything with that opportunity because the odds are stacked against them…Leicester is an extremely rare case that, for all intents and purposes, has never really happened before in this fiscal climate.) Does soccer grow if Ottawa and the Cosmos are promoted and Chicago and Philly are relegated? I would argue no. I mean, maybe in Ottawa. Surely not here. Or Chicago. Only two of the five largest cities in this country.

        I think it’s great for small teams to get the opportunity to move up. I don’t like how loyal fans get punished because their team sucks, which is entirely out of their control. If the fans built and controlled the team, then sure, relegate them. But again, it’s out of our hands, and I don’t want to be watching my team playing division II soccer solely because I wasn’t a front-runner for a more successful MLS team.

        Edit: Welcome to our community. I don’t mean to be negative or (too) argumentative, but I just sort of took issue with the “we deserve it” phrase.

      • All good and thanks for the welcome. I don’t mean to be a crazy pro/rel guy either and its just me and a few others pipe dream really.

        I’m sure we could both argue about it for a while, but its a good discussion.

        -Very true about the spending thing. I would say at the end of the day, if those teams spend to improve their academies, then soccer in the USA benefits. I would hope some of that spending leads to better, more consistent results in the World Cup. I agree the salary set up doesn’t make pro/rel possible tomorrow, but in the future it would be my preference to move towards it once this young league moves on from its growing pains. At the end of the day, I do think its unfair that a city that wants in to MLS has to give 100 million dollars first. That doesn’t seem right to me and unique to only America.

        -Yes, Portsmouth would be a example of how it could hurt, but Portsmouth is still a club. They were not disbanded. A team like Rangers also ran into financial issues and are close to a full recovery. I’m sure their fans have not gone anywhere. In regards to your comments about a few cities actually realizing the chance to compete in the top division, I still believe the ‘chance’ is what matters. The drama that comes along with that is what would be different in the American sports landscape and that is what could set MLS apart from the crowded field of baseball, football, basketball in the USA. My view (right or wrong) is that that would drive up interest in this country, which would then benefit soccer in the USA.

        My “we deserve it” phrase certainly needed to be expanded upon, my bad on that. I love this club as much as anyone. I would ask though, if all issues were worked out and agreed upon, would you like to see a pro/rel system here or it a firm no for the next 50+ years?

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Sure some of these clubs aren’t top flight clubs the point of pro/rel is that the 2nd and 3rd tier league produce a quality of play that is far better than our 2nd and 3rd tier team…
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        So many arguments about only a few teams win in the highest leagues but every team in the highest league is amazing… even if not good enough to stay up because the pyramid below supports it.
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        Again and again we go over this… because it is so important.
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        There is honor in being a premiership team for over half the teams… the WHOLE point for those clubs is staying UP… because somebody below is busting their ass to push them out.

      • My biggest issue, and this will never go away, is that a team’s fans that have shown up and supported their team all year, especially in the midst of a bad season, get “rewarded” by having their team relegated. That just seems wrong to me. I would be more in favor (to some extent) of assigning teams to leagues based on previous year’s attendance…if your fans show up in big-league numbers, then you play in the top league. Apathetic fans? 2nd or 3rd division. And there might still be a correlation to on-field performance…if a team’s fans stop coming to games because they’re terrible…then should they be top flight? I would argue no. That way, a team can be ranked by their support, not their spending habits (which, again, the fans have no control over).

      • El Pac, I would say has reached a point where the current franchises will not be going anywhere. Teams such as Dallas may move to another stadium in another part of the city, but won’t be folding.

        Eric, I get why having a team get relegated affects the fan experience, but the door is always open to return to the top. To me, its no different than a team tanking and playing a meaningless season. It would force the ownership to make sure the stay in the 2nd division isn’t long. My goal would be to have MLS mirror how the top european leagues operate so we don’t risk becoming that outlier league with 30+ teams and no pro/rel. At the risk of sounding like a Eurosnob, I don’t want to be the league that thinks the way everyone else in the world has done it for so long is wrong and we have it right. If Philly gets relegated, its not a death sentence and I’m sure the fans wouldn’t disappear. Teams in pro/rel systems “folding” is a small, small percentage. I know some don’t care what the rest of the world thinks, but I know Don Garber does and I don’t think he’s taking the right approach.

        Alexi Lalas recently said he believes MLS will eventually have 40 total teams, with 20 teams in a top league and 20 in a 2nd division. My question would be how are you going to decide those first 20 to start in the 2nd division and why would they pay 100 million dollars for that? I think a long-term plan needs to be in place before you lock yourself in a box and seal it closed.

        I know we could keep going here, but it’s been good back and forth.

      • I’m not convinced one way or the other as far as pro/rel. I frequently hear something like “how can all of Europe be wrong…they have pro/rel”. I will agree that there are lessons to be learned from Europe which has been successful at soccer for a long time. However, I also think there are lessons to be learned from basketball, hockey and baseball here in the US. All three of those leagues (MLB, NHL and MLB) attract the best of the best from around the world, and none of them use Pro/Rel. Just putting that out there, take it easy on me, I’m a first time caller/long time listener.

    • Marc… This is more what I was thinking and you did a much better job… even if I misread the article… about Champions League versus Championships.
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    • Marc – I understand the appeal of the rare Cinderella story like Leicester’s, but do you really think that pro-rel would be a net positive for professional soccer in this country?
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      Sure, a die-hard fan like yourself might continue to show up for games if your team were relegated, but I bet that a large portion of season ticket holders and others would abandon ship if their local MLS team got dropped down to NASL. That would result in a big reduction in ticket sales/merchandise/concession revenue for such clubs.
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      Sponsorship money would also be on shaky ground in a pro/rel environment. What company is going to pay for a long-term sponsorship of a team that might be playing in the “B” league a year from now? Which one will want to put its name on a stadium that might soon be half empty, at best?
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      And what about national and local TV deals? Can you imagine if the bottom four teams in MLS last year (Chicago, Philadelphia, Colorado, and NYCFC) were relegated and replaced with the top four from NASL (Cosmos, Ottawa, Minnesota, Ft Lauderdale)? What national TV company would be happy with the chances of that swap taking place? Would stations in places like Philly and Chicago be willing to risk anything more than a year-to-year TV deal if their local clubs were constantly at risk of relegation?
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      Lastly, which individuals or groups are going to invest in MLS teams under pro/rel? Would you risk your money, or your company’s, on purchasing a team that might be relegated after one bad season? How much would you be willing to put into new facilities or players under such circumstances, knowing that relegation may come before any payoffs are realized?
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      Pro/rel may work well in other countries with longer and deeper ties to the sport, but I can easily picture the operating dollars in MLS drying up under pro/rel and all the recent improvements in league quality going away with it. In that case, a team like Jacksonville may jump up to win the MLS title, but few fans will be left to notice.

      • I certainly see how all that would seem insurmountable. I’ll take a stab at some of your points as best I can.

        -I think we can all agree that MLS is stable and top division, high level soccer in the US is not going away. Too many people care at this point. If relegation means you lost ticket sales/merch/etc., that means teams must spend more and work harder to attract top players in order to stay in the top division. That, to me, helps makes soccer grow in the USA. Also, instead of just all the major cities with clubs growing the game, smaller markets that work their way to the top benefit from TV money and other things to grow the game in other parts of the country.

        -Once again, 2nd division teams all around the world are able to obtain some sponsorships. Your local single/double/triple A baseball team most likely has a track surrounded with them. And also, if you don’t like a lack of sponsors because you got relegated, then do what you can to only spend one year there.

        -I’m not an economist by any stretch and initially I’m sure TV would be an issue. But say for example Seattle or NYCFC has a bad year and gets relegated. I’m sure their fans will still want to watch the games on TV. Supply will have to match the demand. I’m sure I’m simplifying this to a degree or a lot, but once again, they seem to work out this issue in every other country.

        -In regard to your question about which individuals or groups would be willing to invest in a pro/rel MLS, Liverpool is owned by an American group, NYCFC is owned by Man City, which risks owning a team in a pro/rel set up. Yes, they have a ton of money and it shouldn’t be an issue, but the risk is there if the wheels come off the bus. I think the prospect of big money from TV deals will have owners willing to take the risk. And not to sound like a broken record here, but everywhere else in the world, you have owners willing to take that risk.

        Maybe MLS is not ready for pro/rel at the moment, but I would like the mentality to become more “when” than “if”. The concern is, every year Chattanooga, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville don’t have that goal to reach for, you risk those teams having to fold and thats one less market that soccer in the USA plants its roots. I think if you would look into it, you would see European teams rarely, rarely fold in a pro/rel system. Pro/rel to me just shouldn’t seem impossible or not beneficial. We seem to look at it everywhere else and think its good there, but for some odd reason absolutely impossible here and that baffles me. Feel free to disagree, just my view on it.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        MSG::::: RE- clubs dying a terrible death related to relegation thereby hurting MLS…. Not if their local MLS team was built from the grassroots and earned its way to the top those fans would NEVER walk away simply because of relegation because it would be a club with vested human interest not some franchise granted keys to the kingdom and the freedom to suck…
        .
        yes there are certainly franchises that would absolve if we went to the pro/rel model. 100% because they were fabricated sir. Conjured. That’s the WHOLE point. Yes MLS would lose teams… possibly our beloved Union.
        .
        If that happened then it was built out of straw all along.

  11. Zizouisgod says:

    Regarding Rosenberry being a defensive liability, he can learn to defend better and a lot of that comes down to getting match time to improve on that. What he brings is a technical ability that, to be honest, if you don’t have by your late teens/early 20’s, it’s just not gonna happen.

    MLS is so much more fun to follow than just about any other league in the world. The unpredictability from year to year and week to week makes it so much more compelling when you view it vs leagues in Europe and the rest of the world. I love the Champions League, but it’s so repetitive from year to year that I have a tendency to tune out at times (how many times can we see Arsenal play Barcelona or Chelsea vs. PSG?) For the most part, it’s predictable and BO-RING

    • You found Juventus scoring 4 unanswered goals across two games against Bayern predictable and boring..only to watch a brilliant tactician make two huge changes that altered the course of the whole game?
      .
      Interesting.
      .
      You find the Atletico PSV affair predictable and boring?
      .
      Revenue has changed related to TV and all that stuff if I recall coming to understand the nature of european football well enough… really has nothing to do with the individual clubs per se does it?
      .
      There are the 6 major major clubs (arbitrary number) and then their is the rest– of these amazing teams — that make the first 2 knock out rounds of Champions League unlike anything else in the world. We can’t even sniff it…
      .
      Tell ya what I find boring… a semi final CONCACAF Champions league with all Mexican teams… pretty much year after year.

      • Agree El Parchyderm; not sure Zizouisgod knows what he is talking about. Tell you something else: watching these Champions League games at the New Deck at Penn is very special with all those international students, especially when they have 2 games on at the same time!!

      • Zizouisgod says:

        Let me explain the phrase “for the most part” to you all. It doesn’t mean everything.

        Did I love the Juve-Bayern tie? Absolutely, but I have found that to be the exception in the CL rather than the norm.

        Lastly, I agree with you on the CONCACAF CL. It is boring.

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