Join Now | 
HomeAboutContact UsPrivacy & SecurityAdvertise
Soccer America DailySoccer World DailySpecial EditionAround The NetSoccer Business InsiderCollege Soccer ReporterYouth Soccer ReporterSoccer on TVSoccer America ClassifiedsGame Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalkSoccer America ConfidentialYouth Soccer InsiderWorld Cup Watch
RSS FeedsArchivesManage SubscriptionsSubscribe
Order Current IssueSubscribeManage My SubscriptionRenew My SubscriptionGift Subscription
My AccountJoin Now
Tournament CalendarCamps & AcademiesSoccer GlossaryClassifieds
5. MLS: Evaluating the first-round format
October 30th, 2006 7:01PM

MOST READ

MOST COMMENTED

By Ridge Mahoney

Away goals or penalty kicks? Which is better?


When MLS drew up its playoff format, deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis admitted that not using away goals as a tiebreaker increases the chances of overtime and penalty kicks. A league whose regular-season games are often lacking in drama selected a playoff scheme designed to ratchet up the intensity and suspense as much as possible.

Also, a two-game, total-goals format is esoteric enough for many of the people who cover and attend MLS games, regardless of its use around the world. Tacking on an away-goals provision would increase their confusion. It's still seems strange to many that D.C. United advanced by tying Red Bull, 1-1, and winning, 2-1, on aggregate.

The rationale can be argued but the effect cannot. The overtimes were intense - especially in Dallas, where both teams scored in OT -- and the penalty kicks excruciating. Yet the most dramatic ending came in Houston, when Brian Ching's header looped over the Chivas USA goal line in stoppage time of regulation for a 2-0 win on the night and 3-2 on aggregate. Had away goals been used a tiebreaker, Houston would have advanced without Ching's late goal.

And if away-goals had been in play, penalty kicks would not have been needed to settle the New England-Chicago and Dallas-Colorado series.

The Fire - tied 2-2 with New England on aggregate at the end of regulation in the second leg -- would have won on its away goal, 1-0. Series over. The scenario in Dallas was a lot more complicated.

When the Rapids and FC Dallas finished regulation with Colorado leading, 2-1, and the teams deadlocked in goals, 3-3, they were also tied on away goals, 2-2. (FC Dallas won the first leg in Denver, 2-1.)

However, at the end of overtime, the teams were tied again in total goals (4-4), but the Rapids led on away, goals, 3-2. Series over. To win the series in that situation, Dallas would have needed an additional goal to cancel out Colorado's away goal advantage and win 5-4 on aggregate.

Take it away, "SportsCenter." Try explaining that to the folks at home. Maybe Gazidis is right. Penalties are a terribly unfair way to decide a playoff, but at least they are comprehensible.

The use of away goals isn't universal. A staple of European competitions, they aren't used in the Copa Libertadores nor CONCACAF play.

Critics question if playing the second game at home is really advantage to the higher seed. In five of the 16 first-round series played since the format was adopted in 2003 the higher seed failed to advance. Colorado's upset of Dallas is the third time a No. 4 seed has knocked off the conference champ, a rather high incidence considering only eight of those matchups have been played.

Last year, much anguish stemmed from three of four lower-seeded teams advancing. Most notorious, of course, was the .500 Galaxy (13-13-6) knocking off Western Conference champ San Jose, yet who could have forecast Eastern No. 2 D.C. being smoked, 4-0, at RFK by the No. 3 Fire after the teams drew 0-0 in Chicago?

And the case can be made that if the higher seed wins the first game on the road, the second game should be a formality. Not so. To win its series, Dallas - like D.C. United - needed only a tie at home. Dallas choked, and United sweated buckets to get past the Red Bulls.

This is another reason not to use away goals. If the higher seed scores in its away game its advantage is increased, although that wouldn't have helped D.C. all that much after it won, 1-0, at the Meadowlands. When Josmer Altidore scored Sunday in the 76th minute, the teams were tied with one away goal apiece.

It's not the format, stupid, it's the parity. Weird stuff happens. But it can be exciting.


No comments yet.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Soccer America Daily
Video Pick: How MLS All-Stars vs. Arsenal came about     
The best promotional video ever gets underway with Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco and Herculez Gomez, features ...
Making a List: MLS players on move to NASL    
Brazilian defender Adailton became the latest former MLS player to sign with an NASL team when ...
MLS player tracker with complete rosters (Feb. 10)    
The Philadelphia Union signed forward C.J. Sapong to a three-year contract. He led the Union with ...
Klinsmann breaks down U.S. goalkeeping situation    
As the USA heads into 2016 with the Copa Centenario and World Cup 2018 qualifying on ...
What They're Saying: High schooler Marte Formico    
"It's awesome having Brandi. Someone who has been that caliber of a player, that has been ...
What They're Saying: Fiorentina executive Sandro Mencucci    
"In Italy, people love football, but everybody thinks that football is only for men -- they ...
MLS Preseason: Training camp and friendly schedules    
The MLS champion Portland Timbers head home after playing Real Salt Lake Thursday morning in their ...
USA-Costa Rica Takeaways: USA doesn't mess around    
The USA isn't going to mess around with Olympic women's qualifying. It wasn't the 14-0 rout ...
U.S. Abroad: Bedoya does it again for Nantes    
In France, they call it "la magie de la Coupe" ("cup magic"). CF2 (fifth division) club ...
Video Pick: Back-heel Golazo of the Week    
VfL Bochum's Tim Hoogland has his back to SC Freiburg's goal when teammate Timo Perthel unleashes ...
>> Soccer America Daily Archives