Saturday, June 13, 2009

Gouging Our Own Eyes Out So You Don't Have To

It's been a while since we fired up the ol' FJM'inator. Maybe it's a sign that the general quality of soccer talk in the US is improving.

Oh, who are we kidding? This is America, we'll never run out of idiots. And, so we give you one Mitch Howard and his attempted analysis—and really, what is that, do they give a Nobel Prize for attempted chemistry?—"Is Portsmouth Better Than the Chicago Fire?"

If you don't know that the answer is "Yes" then, please, follow along after the jump.

Soccer purists tend to exaggerate the reality of the state of American Soccer.

Example please. One. Just one. You're going to make a huge generalization like that as your starting point and not even find one credible source to back it up?

They tend to emphasize the negative when referencing U.S. Soccer and they don’t want to accept the fact that of the world’s greatest Soccer leagues, it is only the upper-eschelon teams that are truly great.

Three things:

First, we're going to have a problem if you insist of using 'Soccer' as a proper noun. It's not one. So, by "US Soccer" I'm not entirely sure if you are referring generally to the game in America or to the sport's governing body in America, the thing headquartered in Chicago. I'm guessing that generally you just mean the sport.

Second, that's close to a tautology. Only upper-echelon teams are great because only teams that are great are in the upper-echelon. Of course we could conceive of a league full of nothing but mediocre teams so that winning that league wouldn't really mean you were a team of much quality. Such a league might have a tiny salary cap, be populated by marginal players, and have a central authority that exercises more power than individual teams. Although we're not sure where you might find such a league.

Third, your two statements have nothing to do with each other. It's like saying "My toe hurts and I don't want to accept the fact that it's raining outside."

In the EPL, there are probably 5 great teams and the rest of them are very good, good and average. MLS teams would be competitive with all of the bottom 15 teams of EPL.

It's actually four. And if Arsenal doesn't address needs in central defense and defensive midfield it could be three by the end of next season. If you think there's five you must be a Tottenham fan.

But 'good' and 'average' are relative to the other teams in what is widely acknowledged as the world's best league (debatable, yes). Here let me do some work for you: David James, Glen Johnson, Sylvain Distin, Niko Kranjcar, Sol Campell, John Utaka, and Nwankwo Kanu all play for Portsmouth.

There is not a single player on the Chicago Fire roster (outside of Brian McBride) who could supplant any of those players in the Portsmouth line-up. Even when Blanco went on loan to Real Valladolid in La Liga he had a very ordinary strike rate of three goals in 23 appearances. So he couldn't hack it in Europe.

So, how is it that MLS teams would be competitive with the likes of Aston Villa or Manchester Citeh? Hell, the New York Red Bulls aren't even competitive with the rest of MLS. They get run off the pitch by the expansion Seattle Sounders, how the hell would they not get dismantled by Everton?

Simply saying something is true doesn't make it so.

"I'm the Queen of Scotland." Hey, awesome. Now I have a vagina. And subjects. This is cool.

The purists want to influence popular opinion by granting God-like status to European Soccer, but the truth is that there are only so many great teams.

If every team were great, how would we even know? Of course there are only so many great teams. "The world needs ditch-diggers, too, Danny."

This standard also applies to the Spanish, German, French and Italian leagues. MLS teams would battle most of the teams well (the bottom 75%), winning and losing close games.

You are fucking high. Or stupid. Or under 12-years-old. And, I hope for the sake of any children you have or might have in the future, it's the first of those options.

Just because the best teams in the top European leagues are better than the teams at the bottom of those leagues, it in no way follows that an MLS team could be competitive with those bottom teams.

The top teams would give a whipping to MLS teams.

This is perhaps the only thing you've said to this point that is accurate.

In terms of the Mexican, Central American and South American leagues, MLS would be competitive with all of these teams with the exception of the top tier two or three teams of Brazil and Argentina.

Well, MLS teams have a horrible record against Mexican teams in the CONCACAF Champions League. Hell, a season after making it to the MLS Cup the New England Revolution was bounced in the preliminary round for the 08-09 CCL. DC United finished dead last in its group, earning only a single point.

The Houston Dynamo were the only MLS team to make it out of the group stages and they were dismissed in the first knock out round 4-1 on aggregate by Atlante, a Mexican side.

So, in one of the few places where we actually have numbers, we haven't done so well. In fact, MLS hasn't even put a team in the final since the LA Galaxy in 2000 (for comparison, even Costa Rica has put a team in the final four times in that span).

As for the rest of South America, sure, the Fire or the Crew might do okay in the Uruguayan or Columbian league. To be honest, I don't know as I don't watch that much Uruguayan or Columbian soccer because, well, it's hard to. FSC broadcasts some Argentine football, but that's about it for the rest of the Americas. I try to stay away from talking about things I don't know much about.

Yeah, subtlety has never been my forte.

It could be that MLS teams have traditionally not played well in CONCACAF because of scheduling or that its relevance was low on the totem pole for general managers, owners and fans.

Wow, a reasonable explanation. Although, save for Ebbsfleet United, fans don't have much say in what competitions a manager should emphasize.

This seems to be changing. There has been a lot more press regarding CONCACAF play this year.

Yes, nothing means that teams will do better on the pitch more than press about an event. I am now going to write 1 million articles between now and next summer about the US Men's National Team thus assuring they will win the World Cup.

The newest CONCACAF schedule was released yesterday. Look for MLS teams to give a good showing.

Based on what? The release of a schedule? The press? This makes no sense.

The truth is that the world’s Soccer leagues play just like MLS does.

That is the farthest thing from the truth. Skill, creativity, touch. The best soccer leagues are littered with players that have all three of these. Watch a couple of MLS games and you'll see that the first touch in the US's domestic league is generally pitiful.

If you mean that MLS and the rest of the world's soccer league play by the same rules, then that would be the only way in which your statement would be accurate.

There is a lot of boring Soccer out there. There are maybe 20 great teams in the world that play with consistent innovation and determination.

This is based on what? Except for 20 teams, the rest are boring? Explain what you actually mean here, then find some way to justify this statement.

The average Soccer league teams play an exciting game only every third or fourth game. It is the rules of Soccer that hinder teams and make their games so dull and lifeless.

So what rules allowed Liverpool and Arsenal to play that insane 4-4 draw at Anfield in the late season? The same ones that make games "dull and lifeless." It's not the rules of soccer that make for a dull game, it's tactics. If a manager wants to park 10 men behind the ball when his side is out-manned, that's a tactical decision. And even then that doesn't necessarily mean a boring match will result.

I'm not going to touch the first sentence. Really, I watched 36 of Arsenal's 38 league matches this season, all but maybe three of them almost resulted in giving me a small coronary. But that's my experience, and I know better than to extrapolate from that to a universal statement about anything.

The great teams can get around the lack of drama from which the rules stifle average and good teams because the talent is so much more superb. For these teams, the matches achieve a higher level of skill and action.

I don't even know what this means.

Don’t fool yourself and don’t believe the hype!

The book of the new school rap game. Writers treat me like Coltrane, insane... Love Public Enemy. Don't think that's what you are talking about here.

Check out the empty stadiums all around the world. These are the homes to average teams who play average. Relegation and promotion doen’t change anything, it only proves the point further. Teams fight to stave off relegation and fight to gain promotion, but the stands still remain half-full or even worse than half-full, regardless.

Norwich City FC. They suck (as NCFC's unofficial US-based blog we're all too aware of this). They just got relegated out of Colaship to League One. They pack Carrow Road with 26,000 fans (capacity) week in, week-out. They'll do the same one division down.

Derby Couty, they suck, too. But one of the reasons they were bought by their American owners was the loyal support of the fan base. Plenty of mediocre teams fill their respective stadia. Sure plenty of good Serie A teams have problems selling out, but this whole line of thought has nothing to do with whether an MLS team would be competitive in a top European league to begin with.

Are you trying to say that poor attendance correlates with bad soccer? Because that would support the notion that MLS is terrible. If you want an empty stadium—as for some reason it seems important to you—go check out FC Dallas.

The U.S. team will make next year’s World Cup and has a decent chance to make it through to the second round.

What does the USMNT have to do with the relative competitiveness of MLS? Besides nothing, I mean.

The second round would mean that the U.S. is one of the top 16 countries in the world.

Not really. It depends on the draw, and other random variables. The Aussies probably weren't one of the best 16 teams in the world when they made it to the knock out stages of the last World Cup.

With a big upset, the U.S. could make the quarter-finals. This is awesome that the U.S. has a chance to make it so far into the World Cup, most countries would die for the opportunity just to qualify.

And with four big upsets, we could win the World Cup. And I'm going to write 1 million articles about it, so it's going to happen!

So where does the U.S. rank in Soccer?

FIFA says we're 14th. That's about to drop once our 3-0 pasting in Costa Rica gets figured in, along with the likely humbling we're in for at the Confederations Cup.

It’s doing well.

Ranking aside, we haven't performed well on the world's biggest stage. We had one good World Cup in 2002, and a decent showing when we hosted in 1994. Again, the Confederations Cup will be the best litmus test of this ahead of the next World Cup. Our group has Italy, Brazil, and Egypt in it. Would any reasonable person with a functional knowledge of soccer expect us to advance from that group?

The national team is solid and its leagues, MLS and USL are improving. But if MLS fails, and it very well could in the next 3-5 years, the U.S. Soccer world will turn upside down.

Where does this assertion that the league "very well could" fold in the next "3-5 years" come from? And what does it have to do with whether the Fire could beat Pompey?

Is there a single statement in this entire piece that actually supports the idea that an MLS team could be competitive in a top European league? What's the point of this piece, other than to annoy reasonably intelligent people?

You know what we really learned from this?

There are twenty-plus comments on this nonsense. Jesus, we're going to start writing the craziest shit and fill it with borderline non-sequiturs. You've been warned.

But our page views are about to skyrocket.


phil said...


Mike Georger said...

"What does the USMNT have to do with the relative competitiveness of MLS? Besides nothing, I mean."

Actually it does have something to do with it, though not what he thinks. How many current USSMNT players ply their trade in the MLS? Four? It says that the best American players don't play in the MLS, which doesn't exactly support his argument.

The NY Kid said...

I believe that of the 24-man roster, there are only 6 MLS players and 18 who play in Europe.

Mike Georger said...

Four is like halfway to six, so I was close.

And how many of those are promising young talents outside of that defender who may or may not be Jewish? (I honestly don't know)

Keith said...

And, Kid, of those 18, maybe half play regularly.

And as a Villa supporter, I'd love- LOVE! to see a schedule full of MLS opposition. We'd be assured the trophy every year. . . it'd be like supporting Celtic or Rangers

and JPA found himself behind Kevin effing Phillips and Luke Moore at times in David O'Leary's side, and behind Chris Sutton when O'Neill took over.

ΓΌ75 said...

3-1 dammit. Don't sell Landycakes' PK goal short!

Kyle B. said...

I thought it might be worth pointing out as well that not only does making the 2nd round of the World Cup mean you're a top 16 team, but that making the World Cup itself does not make you a top 32 team.

Much like making it out of the NCAA tournament first round doesn't make you one of the 32 best teams in basketball, the same variables are at play: qualifying rules ensure the top 32 teams are not selected, and (as you mentioned) random chance comes into play in such a small sample size.

Of course, these are mere quibbles. My only regret in the article is that I was dumb enough to give the guy a page view.

Mike said...

Thanks to u75 for the spoiler in a completely irrelevant post.