I've been looking at the Goal of the Year winner. A wonderful free kick by Colorado’s Shkelzen Gashi. A hell of a goal.
A worthy winner, then? Well that depends. The MLS award is clearly intended as an individual award -- the goal comes with a player’s name attached, and that’s the guy who gets the award. By that criterion, yes, Gashi’s goal is a worthy winner.
Which is fine ... as far as it goes. But goals are frequently not solo efforts. The classic example of a team, as opposed to an individual, goal came from Argentina during the 2006 World Cup. One of its goals in a 6-0 win over Serbia & Montenegro came after a dazzling 24-pass sequence. The scorer of the goal, Esteban Cambiasso, was left really with a simple tap-in.
There is no way that Cambiasso could be given all the credit for that goal, that would be ridiculous. So the goal would not be considered for an award under the MLS system, which relies on crediting an individual. Yet it seems equally ridiculous to just ignore such a remarkable goal.
I’ve been into this topic before, in this column. In 2005 I suggested to MLS that it should add a couple of awards to its already formidable list: An Assist of the Year award, and a second Goal of the Year -- this one a team goal.
My very generous offer -- I told the MLS guys it was for free, no strings attached -- was, you’ll be amazed to hear, totally ignored. So, nothing daunted, I returned to the matter in 2006, repeating my unbelievably generous offer.
That was 10 years ago, and I have to report that it met the same fate as the original suggestion. It fell upon stony ground. It was greeted with all-embracing silence. Time to try again, don’t you think?
The idea of an assist award speaks for itself and I like the idea because it would honor playmakers. But maybe the concept of the team award needs some explanation. I outlined my thinking back in 2005, and used the same words in 2006. They seem to set things out satisfactorily to me, so here we go again, trying to capture the essence of a team goal:
“Such goals as these have a different quality from a sudden explosion of individual skill, they allow a few seconds of anticipation as the excitement builds to its zenith. That expectancy, that feeling of growing excitement is an important part of the game -- it would be nice to see it studied and to see it rewarded at the end of the season.”
You know, if it’s thought too difficult to assess such a goal -- it would, I think, call for an aesthetic as well as a soccer judgment, there might be another way of making the decision. A mathematical one: simply count the number of passes.
Can’t say that particularly appeals, but it does open up other possibilities. A number can be compared, infallibly, with other numbers. Thus, those 24 Argentine passes may be a world record, for all I know -- but it’s a total that’s there to be beaten. Not superseded by someone’s differing opinion, but by the mathematical certainty of a superior number.
All of this, of course, is predicated on the assumption that MLS teams are capable of scoring goals at all. If the recent MLS Cup final is any indication, they are having a lot of difficulty in that department. If a real drought sets in, that will solve all questions of competition, and The Goal of the Year will be just that. The One and Only Goal. I jest. I hope.
MLS can get this geared up for next season. Fan voting I suppose would come into it, though I continue to find online voting a too easily manipulable mechanism.
Or maybe the first thing that comes into mind when the MLS and suchlike people think of an award is that it would need a sponsor. My thoughts on sponsors are well enough known -- I mean my dislike of the way that their dismayingly commercial approach soon infiltrates everything they get anywhere near.
That prospect fills me with dread and gloom. So, while the sky is still bright, how about it you MLS guys? This, I feel quite certain, is my final offer. So don’t miss out on this unique opportunity ... or does that already sound like a sales campaign?