And I'm not even talking about their handling of the expansion bids
ESPN / espn.com (http://www.espn.com/soccer/match?gameId=502710)
Soccer fans across America were treated to a fairly exciting match in the first LA derby this weekend with the LA Galaxy squeeeeeaking out a win over new expansion franchise LAFC. This is the kind of soccer match that probably has executives in the MLS front office changing their underpants. There were a total of seven goals scored with the Galaxy getting two from substitute Zlatan (how weird is that to read?) after he came on at the 71st minute. This was a huge comeback win in one of the nation's largest media markets scored by a player that legitimately has global appeal. What more could you want for American soccer?
Well, if you know anything about international futbolling landscape and have at least an IQ above 12 your answer should be "a shitload more than that."
Let's take a step back and realize what really happened on Sunday. An expansion team played a team that used to be a marquee club in the league and we were treated to some exciting moments (including a shirtless Zlatan) thanks to terrible play and officiating. The entire narrative is going to be focused on the Swedish international and the impact that he might have on the league but isn't the MLS past the point where they need burnt out players to build their brand domestically? I mean, Z played well for ManU last year prior to his knee injury and one would think they would want to hold onto that talent if for no other reason than an insurance policy if their others strikers go down. But they coudn't be bothered to keep him under contract when clearly he's still the cream of the finishing crop based on his ~25 minutes of work this weekend.
Sure, fans probably tweeted all about the match and creamed their panties for the international 9 to make such an early mark on the league but realistically let's break down both those goals.
LA Galaxy 3, LAFC 3 - Zlatan Ibrahimovic 77'
This shit is an utter embarrassment and the kind of garbage I'd expect from Joe Hart. Yeah, it was a nice looking strike from distance to drop that ball in over the goalie but for a man like Z this is a gimme. When you're up one with such little time left what is the goalie doing taking him time returning to his box? Blast that ball clear to hell and get your ass back where you belong or play a simple, safe ball to a fullback and let them possess. This is the kind of shit you'd expect to see in a subpar league like ours. I believe they call it "situational futbol"?
LA Galaxy 4, LAFC 3 - Zlatan Ibrahimovic 90' + 1'
He was offsides. Period. He was waaayyyy offsides to begin that break and never fully got back clear to be able to legally be involved in the play. As an AR you should see his initial positioning and considering the movement of the ball expect a cross into Zlatan. This would make me think that you'd pay extra special attention to his spacing relative to the last man. Furthermore, what the fuck was that backline doing!?!?! I mean, Jesus, there's three fullbacks within ten yards of him as the ball is coming up the wing and one makes a half assed attempt to challenge him in the air. The other two must be wondering who is going to jack whom back in the locker room. I'd love to tear the goalie apart too but if I was going to do that I'd need to cover his entire incompetence over the 90' and I don't have time for that. Giving a former world class striker that much room to finish is like standing inside the key while Steph Curry lines up his J from behind the arc. That's just too easy.
This is all to say nothing of the fact that LAFC were three goals clear of the home side 60' into the match before shitting their pants like the young bucks they are to walk across the street without any points. That is a key point to highlight that in the top tiers it is rare to see a squad give up a lead like that (unless they play in Cincinnati) and go home with nothing. That simply doesn't happen when you have quality soccer teams. Additionally, when you do see that it's because there is supreme offensive quality on one side or a team that is merely in the flight for a season before being relegated back down to where they belong. In this case it was two crappy teams diddling around trying to kill 90 minutes on a sunny Saturday afternoon. The majority of the other goals were the result of lazy defending and players who once were world class taking advantage of those that would never amount to more than dudes in boots.
If my high school journalism teacher were to read this he'd ream me for burying the lead so far down below the fold but the key point is this: the MLS is where international stars come to die. There is no way this can be debated. It's also a place where the pussy-ass American players come because they're afraid of challenging themselves with European competition. It's also where Mexican players that can't cut it in the superior Liga MX come to get a paycheck for playing futbol and hopefully leverage that into a better club. We will never be taken seriously until we stop celebrating these cute circumstances for anything other than the are: great performances by international has-beens playing against average players in a subpar league. Sure, we all love the story of the kid pitching a perfect game in AA ball but on the grand scale, no one gives a shit.
One Last Thing
In case any of you homers want to come at me with "Well, the US has two referees on their way to the World Cup" I have this to say: Big. Fucking Deal. This is completely driven by the fact that our stupid ass team didn't make it so these guys are valuable like O- blood and the MLS is one of the few leagues to have adopted VAR so early in the process. If it weren't for pieces of shit like Michael Bradley and our love for throwing technology into sports they'd be sitting at home like the rest of us.