I watch a lot of football (or soccer as it so quaintly known in North America) but I don’t usually watch MLS, no matter how well or badly the Whitecaps may be doing. However, this evening, I watched the second half of the game against Seattle that the Whitecaps won by a single goal; and I tried to analyze why I don’t follow MLS more closely.
I worked it out: the MLS is rather like a no-contact schoolboy league game and is therefore quite boring to anyone used to the best.
Modern football, as epitomised by the major European leagues (the English EPL, German Bundesligia, Serie A in Italy, or La Liga in Spain, for example), is a super-fast full-contact sport played by hard men (many with exquisite skills, but hard men nonetheless). There is a certain level of brutality, I suppose, but that is the way the game has developed. It is hard to imagine any of the players I saw tonight coming off well in any clashes with a top European half-back. I can see them crawling off the pitch and crying into their yoga mats.
Perhaps more importantly is the lack of speed. MLS forward advances seem ponderous at best and old-fashioned in their rigidity. Top-class footballers follow their team’s prescribed shape at top speed but are always willing to tweak the tactic for an opportunity.
Finally, if tonight was any guide, the MLS officials are mediocre and proscriptive. They also seem to miss a lot of the action and get little help from their assistants. They reminded me of European hockey refs who call a lot more contact penalties than an NHL official ever would.
And that, perhaps, is the best analogy: MLS football is to European football as the British Hockey League is to the NHL. They all play the same game, but ….
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