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
MLS on TV brings out excitement and drivel
by Paul Gardner, July 6th, 2009 8AM
Subscribe to SoccerTalk with Paul Gardner



I watched two rather different MLS games on Saturday. Both made enjoyable TV viewing: Columbus-D.C. United, for some intelligent soccer and for the ongoing attempt by both teams to play that way; while the Los Angeles-New England game, without offering much in the way of exalted soccer, created excitement from its physical qualities, its pace and commitment and so on.

Maybe the stats, for once, do tell the story here. A total of 23 fouls in the Columbus game, while the Galaxy and the Revs racked up 37, 21 of them from L.A. That's a lot of fouls - and I thought the Galaxy total should have been 22 - the extra one coming at the 90th minute when the Revs' Nico Colaluca was flagrantly upended in the Galaxy box. Sure looked like a penalty to me - but referee Mark Geiger, doing pretty well in a heated game, ignored it, and the Revs didn't do much complaining.

So the Revs coach Steve Nicol got a rather Brit style of "get-stuck-in" game, the sort of soccer that he evidently wants. I'm not sure if that's what Bruce Arena wants for the Galaxy, but I guess he'll take it for the moment, at least until Landon Donovan and David Beckham attempt to get their act together.

The only problem for Nicol was that he lost the game - unjustly, I thought. Apart from the non-PK call, the Revs were the better team in the second half, and were well on top as the game ended. But no goals for them.

Put it down to home field advantage. A narrow 1-0 win for the Galaxy which would probably have been a 1-0 win for the Revs had they been up in Gillette Stadium.

What the game had, in plenty, was goalmouth action. Rather chaotic stuff, most of it, but exciting despite - or possibly because of - that. Here the stats do appear to lie - they list a total of 23 shots. Well, it seemed more than that - and that is what attacking play will do for a game; of course, it takes two teams to make it work, and here you had both sides expending amazing levels of energy as they raced from one end of the field to the other.

Yes, the last 15 minutes or so of the Revs' onslaught on the Galaxy goal had an air of desperation to it - but that was matched by some pretty desperate defending. Add the two together and you had edge-of-the-seat tension with frantic action.

Maybe you'd like 90 minutes of that sort of stuff every game. You're not going to get it, it's beyond the physical and mental powers of the players. Anyway, as in any physical activity, changes and pauses and moments to catch one's breath are necessary, if only to emphasize the highlights.

Such changing moods and rhythms were in evidence in the Columbus-D.C.United game. No doubt part of the reason, a large part I suspect, was that each team had a skilled midfield player - a playmaker, a general, a maestro, there are quite a number of terms for the type - Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Christian Gomez. There were no players of that type to be seen in the Galaxy-Revs game. The Galaxy, of course, have such a player, the best player in the USA, Landon Donovan. The Revs have no one like that because Nicol is a Brit coach and such players do not rank highly in the Brit view of the game.

The Columbus game had its moments of goal-mouth action, but fewer than in the other game. Or so I thought. The stats say I got that wrong, as they list 31 shots, and of course there were two goals in a 1-1 tie.

It seems that helter-skelter action creates a false sense of continual excitement. Or, more likely, it was the excitingly climactic finish to the Galaxy game that sticks so dramatically in my memory.

Something else that sticks in my memory of the Galaxy game - not dramatically, but infuriatingly - is the TV commentary of analyst Brian Dunseth. It was, in a word, appalling. Yet Dunseth seems to have suddenly become the golden boy on television - this was the third game within a week during which I have been bombarded with his virtually non-stop humorless drivel.

It has obviously not occurred to Dunseth that switching from being a player to being a television commentator is actually a change of profession, and that this involves new skills. Like learning how to use the English language concisely and accurately. Like learning how to shape sentences in terms of length, rhythm and cadence. And like realizing that not everything he wants to say is particularly interesting. In short, learning when to shut up would be a good start.

Then there's Dunseth's primitive view of the game - a view that he repeatedly underlines with his praise for "professional fouls" and his demand that defenders repair dangerous situations by committing fouls, even dangerous ones. I wonder how our referees feel about that?

Talking of the rules brings me to the worst of Dunseth's faults - what I would think ought to be a disqualifying deficiency: he doesn't know the rules of the game. It's that bad - an "expert" telling everyone what they should be doing and he hasn't bothered to commit the rules of the game to memory. For a player, that may be good enough - I have always found players (and coaches for that matter) pretty ignorant about the rules - but for a TV analyst ... it's simply unacceptable.

  1. Mark Edge
    commented on: July 6, 2009 at 9:29 a.m.
    Couldn't agree more about the commentating. Add Tommy Smyth's inane comments to the list of mindless "color" analysts. It's also noted that Gardner can never resist a dig at the English game or it's players. If it's not South American it can't be any good.
  1. Dick Burns
    commented on: July 6, 2009 at 4:31 p.m.
    Ignoring the fact that Paul Gardner is a Brit, and that I used to find him constantly negative, I find that as I get older, I find him spot on more often than not. There have been games lately that have shown that attractive, attacking soccer can be fun to watch. If only more coaches would accept that philosphy. As a long time referee, I have always felt that there should be a referee in the booth, perhaps not as an analyst, but to inform the former players about the laws of the games which they are so obviously ignorant of. Old refs can be much harder on the referee on the field but typically, they know what they are talking about.
  1. Kent James
    commented on: July 7, 2009 at 9:09 a.m.
    Dick Burns suggestion is a good one. Too often the announcers get the rules wrong, and their position multiplies the effect of their ignorance. Since all professional games already have an assessor there, perhaps the assessor could be in communication with the booth to answer any questions. Or for televised games, simply pay a retired high level referee to watch and call in when the announcers are mangling the rules (or as Gardner likes to mock (maybe appropriately) the "laws"). But fans should learn more by watching games, not be misled, and so often referee actions are at the heart of game controversies, it would be good if fans could have the controversies explained accurately.

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



Recent SoccerTalk with Paul Gardner
Chuck Blazer 1945-2017: The Fatally Flawed Friend     
The tragedy that was Chuck Blazer is now over. And tragedy it assuredly was, a good ...
New medical study shows FIFA protocol is being ignored    
To laugh ... or to cry? There is no middle course here, no way of dodging ...
The Gnat's Eyebrow and other VAR stupidities     
The trial of video-assistance for referees currently under way at the Confederations Cup in Russia cannot ...
That Goal    
It was Pele who started the "soccer is beauty" theme. He titled his autobiography -- one ...
Tab Ramos paints a rosy American future in the changing U-20 World Cup -- but a U-18 World Cup would make more sense     
Tab Ramos has been talking in glowing terms of his team and its adventures at the ...
What's this? A goalkeeper penalized for rough play?     
Meet Sorin Stoica. Maybe you've seen him in action during MLS games. Not a highly paid ...
Scots wha hae! Thoughts on the sad and ominous decline of Scottish soccer    
I note, with considerable exasperation tempered by sadness, that Scottish soccer is experimenting with a marvelous ...
Celebrity coaches -- who needs them?     
I am still finding it difficult to come to terms with the extraordinary way in which ...
Wenger must stay -- even the stats agree     
Arsene Wenger should stay. That's what I think. And I think that way because I respect ...
Violent Goalkeeping (Part 2): FIFA must radically rethink the goalkeeper's role    
Last time, I asked: "What action has soccer taken to at least reduce the incidence of ...
>> SoccerTalk with Paul Gardner Archives