Join Now  | 
Home About Contact Us Privacy & Security Advertise
Soccer America Daily Soccer World Daily Special Edition Around The Net Soccer Business Insider College Soccer Reporter Youth Soccer Reporter Soccer on TV Soccer America Classifieds Game Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalk Soccer America Confidential Youth Soccer Insider World Cup Watch
RSS Feeds Archives Manage Subscriptions Subscribe
Order Current Issue Subscribe Manage My Subscription Renew My Subscription Gift Subscription
My Account Join Now
Tournament Calendar Camps & Academies Soccer Glossary Classifieds
5. MLS: Evaluating the first-round format
October 30th, 2006 7:01PM
Subscribe to Soccer America Daily

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
U.S. Abroad: Tijuana starts record-tying four Americans    
Tijuana tied a Mexican league record it set in March 2014 when it started four Americans ...
Klinsmann names preliminary U.S. Copa Centenario roster    
U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann named the 40 players to the preliminary U.S. roster for the ...
Red Bulls get defensive held with Collin    
In need of help at center back, where it lost Matt Miazga, sold to Chelsea, and ...
MLS Week 9: Results and standings    
The Colorado Rapids earned a 2-2 tie at Montreal to join FC Dallas and Real Salt ...
NWSL: Reign's Fishlock sidelined with fractured tibia    
Jess Fishlock, an NWSL Best XI pick in each of her three seasons with the Seattle ...
MLS Week 9: Weekend schedule    
One of five Saturday afternoon matches features the Montreal Impact, first in the Eastern Conference, against ...
Soccer gets new Vegas pitchman: David Beckham    
A surprise pitchman at Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis' Thursday meeting with Las Vegas government officials ...
MLS Countdown: FC Dallas looks to rebound quickly    
FC Dallas, which plays at the New York Red Bulls in a battle of 2015 conference ...
Alex Morgan flexes her social media muscle    
If U.S. women's national team players want to show off their clout to make their case ...
What They're Saying: Seattle Sounders sports scientist Dave Tenney    
"One of the biggest red flags we have is guys that have kids. Almost across the ...
>> Soccer America Daily Archives