Monday, September 22, 2008

Yeah, But Do Those Countries Have Our Enormously Successful and Complex Financial System?

Far from grinding any axes, former Galaxy boss Ruud Gullit actually had some surprisingly complimentary things to say about the quality of soccer in MLS.

From a piece that appeared in the Daily Mail:

The football is different, and the salary cap prevents the league from attracting the very top players, but the standard is higher than people think. It's unfair to make comparisons with football in this country... I'd liken it more to the leagues in Holland, Belgium and Norway.

Watch out Aalborg.

Oh wait, I think they're Danish. Uhm, Liege.... no, don't think any MLS team could hold Liverpool scoreless for 180 minutes home and away. Oh wait, what am I saying? Stoke held Liverpool scoreless (disallowed goal notwithstanding), so clearly anyone can. Woo hoo! MLS, almost world class.

Okay, enough cheap shots. Back to Gullit. The former World Player of the Year was very honest about the limitations and mitigating circumstances affecting the quality of play on the pitch: "For a start, they play in the summer and that means it can be 90 degrees and 80 percent humidity. You just can't play high-tempo football. Certainly nothing like the Barclays Premier League, which is all about long ball and pace.

A) Ninety? Did Gullit ever coach the Galaxy at FC Dallas or the Dynamo? Ninety is unseasonably mild for Texas in the summer. B) Who the fuck is successfully playing Route 1 football and winning consistently in the EPL (Suck it, Barclays). Does Gullit even watch soccer?

He continues: "Then there's the travelling. If you're in LA and you've got a game in New York you're talking about a six-or-seven-hour flight." The salary cap, the lack of desire to schedule around international fixtures, etc. He hits all of the obvious explanations.

I kind of appreciate the compliments (even if they are slightly backhanded) of the MLS because when it's good, it's totally watchable soccer. And I'll continue to champion it as such.

But read the article more than once—and maybe read between the lines the second time through—Gullit's explanations start to sound more like scapegoating for his own lack of success. Dominic Kinnear, Sigi Schmidt, Steve Nicol, some coaches have managed to work with the limitations to field competitive teams. The Galaxy might have been a special case, given all the went on between ownership, management, and staff; but winning and doing it consistently is doable in MLS even with the heat, the travel, the cap and the calendar.

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