Not a good week for anti-MLS snobbos

By Paul Gardner

The worst has happened, we are now deprived of World Cup soccer. The European leagues haven’t started yet, and all we’re going to get for the next few weeks is, basically, MLS.

Yikes! Can you imagine? No more of the magnificent Super-S teams -- come on, you remember them, the ones you canceled everything to watch: Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia and Switzerland, wowee! were those guys exciting or what? Gone are the dynamic skills of England, Italy and France. Will life be worth living without the comforting thought that a game featuring the artistry of Australia or the full majesty of New Zealand is coming up shortly?

Difficult times confront us, I’d say. Or at least they confront the Eurosnobs. What on earth will those guys do? Well, they have a half-chance for temporary salvation, because we’re being invaded by a whole bunch of their favorite teams. I’m not sure how a Eurosnob deals with an exhibition game that features his favorite team against, gasp!, an MLS team. Maybe he simply shuts his eyes every time the Americans get the ball?

Manchester United have blessed us with their legendary presence, bringing with them, I learn, their superstars -- Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Darren Fletcher. I watched them beat Glasgow Celtic 3-1. Sorry, snobbos, this was not great stuff.

Though there was one triumph for the anti-snob brigade (of which I have appointed myself a spokesperson) and that was that ESPN has discovered the word soccer, and will be giving us a Summer Soccer Series. Football is out it seems, gone with the World Cup.

The ManU vs. Celtic game had nothing in particular to offer, neither good nor bad. Though it was encouraging to notice a lot of empty seats, meaning that Toronto soccer fans are evidently not quite as easily separated from their money as the promoters thought. ManU became increasingly unrecognizable as the game went on, swamping the field with young subs. Celtic was unrecognizable from the start. A snobby game at snobby prices.

Celtic went on to play in Seattle. Against the Sounders -- an MLS team in an MLS stadium in an MLS atmosphere. Sorry again, snobbos -- Seattle was the better team, even though it played a good part of the game with 10 men (more about that in a moment). Most of the good soccer came from the Sounders, and they produced a thoroughly enjoyable game. Yep, I would have paid to watch this -- paid for what the Sounders dished up; Celtic was simply living proof of a great club that has seen better days, a reflection of how far Scottish soccer has fallen.

I also watched the San Jose Earthquakes take on Tottenham Hotspur. MLS vs EPL. No contest, of course. EPL must win, big. Well Spurs did not win. San Jose was the livelier team, playing some really good soccer at times, with Arturo Alvarez the outstanding player. It finished 0-0 (that’s nil-nil in Eurosnobbese), but it was one of those rare 0-0 games that enthrall.

Of course, of course, there were excuses to be made for the Brit teams. All that traveling, all that heat, all that not-having-played-lately, all that trying-out-young-players and so on (and, yes, at these prices, I do have a problem with putting teams on the field that bare little resemblance to the full starting team).

But it was sad to hear those excuses made, forcefully and repeatedly, by the ESPN commentators, who seemed to know more about the Brit teams than the MLS teams -- or, at any rate, were determined to let us know how widely knowledgeable they are.

The biggest disappointment here was the “surprise guest” in the booth at the beginning of the Seattle game - goalkeeper Kasey Keller. Keller made sense, on the whole, until he started in on the Jabulani ball when he disintegrated into total blather. .. “Worst ball I’ve ever played with ... If I hit a ball I want to know where it’s going to go, with this ball you have no idea what it’s going to do ...” ending up with the usual pathetic whine that “they” are trying to make goalkeepers look silly.” Not necessary Kasey, you guys do the job beautifully yourselves. A ball as willfully unpredictable as Kasey describes would make it quite impossible to play the sport. So let’s stop this nonsense.

That is merely silly. Far worse was Kyle Martino, on the same telecast, commenting on the red card given to Keller’s replacement, Terry Boss. Referee Paul Ward can be faulted, perhaps, for whistling too quickly, because Celtic’s Georgios Samaras, though clearly fouled by Boss, did eventually get the ball in the net.

Should Ward have played the advantage rule? It was once spelled out for me, in no uncertain terms, by FIFA referee Ken Aston, that a referee should never play the advantage in the penalty area.

So Ward got it right. A penalty kick and a red card to Boss for denying an “obvious goal scoring opportunity.” Martino’s point, that no one wanted to see an 11 vs. 10 game, is of course valid, as it always is when someone is red-carded. I’ve written about exactly this several times over the years -- and have made it clear that I believe the rules people should allow a red-carded player to be replaced -- but, obviously, with further punishment for the offending team.

But the rules right now are clear -- the player goes off, the team plays with 10 men. Yet here is Martino suggesting that Celtic and Seattle should have got together before the game to subvert the rules to ensure that the game remained 11 vs. 11: “I’d be surprised if they didn’t try to figure out some sort of agreement to get 11 men out there.”

Mind boggling. Such an “agreement” could only be implemented with the cooperation -- collusion is probably the correct word -- of the referee. So Paul Ward should have been asked to betray his commitment to calling an honest game? And who is going to ask him to do that?

The Eurosnobs can laugh, if they feel like it, at that bit of American “analysis” -- but I can assure them that it was no worse than several examples of ignorance displayed by the wonder-Brits brought in by ESPN to do the World Cup.

So, my snobbo friends, this was not a good week for you. Your teams looked mediocre, even when they put their best available players on the field. Against them the San Jose Earthquakes and the Seattle Sounders played the better soccer.

By the same yardstick, this was a good weekend for MLS, and not only for their performances against the Brit teams. Sunday’s game between D.C. United and the L.A. Galaxy had plenty of good highly competitive soccer to offer.

Even so, I was a bit disappointed with this game -- not because it compared poorly with the snobbo teams. But because it didn’t measure up to MLS standards. D.C. United, sadly, is no longer the class act it was back in the early MLS days, and with Landon Donovan on the field the Galaxy really ought to be capable of playing a more skillful version of the sport.

25 comments about "Not a good week for anti-MLS snobbos".
  1. Anthony Walsh, July 19, 2010 at 4:57 a.m.

    I cannot agree one bit with this. You seem to be creating this anti-MLS snobbo-ness, after the Confederation cup in 2009 and the World Cup this year the americans reputation in football has been alot better than it was pre-2009. Then you have some snobbo like yourself trying to fuel the fire with an article like this. Firstly I don't know the last time Glasgow Celtic done anything outside Scotland. I'm not blaming there terrible performance on travelling, what I am saying is that they are playing in a league not nearly as competitive as the MLS, they rarely beat teams that are not from Scotland. Giving out about Manchester United winning 3-1? They won get over it. Anyone but a bitter fan would give out about that. Spurs didn't win fair enough there is grounds to give out about that considering they are missing their 2 top scorer, their 2 centre halves and a winger, 2 full backs and their number 1 keeper. How couldn't San Jose score? Also wait until Manchester United get there hands on one of the MLS teams.

    I have come to believe you are the biggest snob of all firstly, it is called Football, it has been around alot longer than what you americans call football(which doesn't consist of mostly using your foot or a ball; which is defined as a spherical object). Secondly it is referred to as nil-nil(look it up in the dictionary). Thirdly agreeing to keep at 11 vs. 11, that would make the World Cup finals look like a walk in the park.

    I think you need to get over you conspiracy that the rest of the world is against the MLS.

  2. Wendell Gee, July 19, 2010 at 7:41 a.m.

    Both the article and comment no. 1 are nonsense to me.

    First, Mr Walsh, different English-speaking countries use different words for the same thing. This is nothing particularly noteworthy, and not worth any degree of indignation. I just returned from South Africa where, like a number of countries, the use of the word soccer is widespread. Would you similarly scold South Africans for their choice of words? If so, I imagine you would need to brace yourself for being labeled a cultural-imperialist wanker, or some such.

    That's generally what happens when you go to other countries and arrogantly tell them how to speak. Should baseball ever become popular in England, and should the English adopt their own terminology for certain facets of the game, I cannot imagine the virulent reaction it would (deservedly) elicit were I to go over there and so arrogantly declare, "it's called (stolen base, double play, force out, whatever) in America, and you have to call it that too!"

    Different countries, same language, different words. That's normal. Deal with it.

    (And seriously, have you never in your life heard an Englishman utter the phrase, zero-zero? Seriously?)

  3. Wendell Gee, July 19, 2010 at 8:08 a.m.

    Second, Mr Gardner, please. The notion that there are millions, or even hundreds of thousands, of "Eurosnobs" out there is a US soccer message board myth. No, not all people who might to some degree consider themselves soccer fans in the US follow MLS. There are any number of reasons why this might be the case. Sure, "snobbery" is one reason, and yes eurosnobs exist. And by "eurosnobs" I mean people who arrogantly dismiss MLS out of principle as they carefully manufacture some kind of Euro-soccer image for themselves. But their numbers are insignificant. Most US-based soccer fans who don't follow MLS are hardly image-obsessed "poseurs". Maybe for completely innocuous reasons, not based on any principle, MLS has simply failed to capture their interest, the way some television shows might fail to grab someone's interest for no particular reason. Surely these people are not worth moralizing condemnation? Some might simply not live near an MLS team. Were the 36,000 people regularly seen in Qwest Field previously "eurosnobs"? No, clearly they had nothing against following MLS out of any kind of principle. There simply weren't compelling reasons to follow MLS. And without a local team, surely the whole diverse world of soccer is fair game for one's loyalties, yes? Or is that also worthy of condemnation?

  4. Tony Molledo, July 19, 2010 at 8:42 a.m.

    With so much positive going on in soccer now, more and more Americans paying attention, ratings up, more coverage available and all, why are you such a Niagra of negativity? All your writings are variations on the same theme. Break out of the box, have a positive thought.

  5. Emmanuel Vella, July 19, 2010 at 8:45 a.m.

    Dear Mr. Gardner, I prefer watching the English Premier league to the MLS. I am sorry I enjoy watching more skilled players play to packed out stadiums. I am sorry. I cannot help but wonder why ANY MLS player who was offered a slot in an EPL team would drop everything to take it? Just the money maybe? I don't thing so. BTW. Please stop denigrating football/soccer of whatever the hell you want to call it in Australia and NZ. The fact is Both teams played far better that US in the world cup against tougher competition. Australia managed to tie Ghana with 10 men. Ghana's only goal was a soft penalty and went on to destroy serbia...NZ did very well to tie Italy and should have won that game. Australia has produced more world class outfield players (Viduka, Kewell, Cahill, Bresciano) that have played at top level in Europe that the US has...Stick to producing goal keepers...Oh wait Mark Schwarzer the Australian NAtional team keeper is in the process of signing for Arsenal so I guess you cannot even stand on that laurel....You are pathetic. Can you seriously take pride when the MLS does well in preseason against United's B youth team. You are a sad fellow.

  6. Loren C. Klein, July 19, 2010 at 8:49 a.m.

    I sure hope MLS sides (Ooh! I said a dirty word!) do well against Manchester United, Celtic, Tottenham Hotspur, etc. on their summer tours. I mean, those sides are essentially a preseason rabble, so if MLS sides in midseason form can't beat them, then the league is worse off than any alleged "Eurosnob" could ever hope for.

  7. David Mont, July 19, 2010 at 8:50 a.m.

    Mr. Walsh: the term "football" originated many centuries ago and has nothing to do with using one's feet to kick the ball. The word "football" meant a game played on foot (as opposed to on horseback), not using one's feet. Hence, soccer, American football, Australian football, rugby -- all have the same rights to be called "football". In addition, the term "soccer" is English -- it originated in the 19th century when football split into rugby football and association (assoc, for short, and then soccer) football.

  8. Philippe Fontanelli, July 19, 2010 at 8:59 a.m.

    I normally see eye to eye with Paul Gardner but this time I must disagree with Paul Gardner here. This was my previous comment at another page; Who was the idiot referee who ruined the game for Seattle (vs. Celtic)? The moron should be barred, at very least blacklisted by the US Federation. I am not saying to use favoritism, but not be extreme at a friendly where the outcome is practically meaningless, with the exception for the US public in this case Seattle. Thus sacrificing a possible good show for the crowd to enjoy. We need a crowd like that for the "game" in the US. It was a friendly game he should have given a penalty at max., but not ejecting the poalkeeper to surely doom the game and influence the result with one less player to play the entire game. Award the Ref 20 years at hard labor in Siberia without a trial. LOL, although it is not funny!

  9. Gus Keri, July 19, 2010 at 9:12 a.m.

    It's really tiring to keep hearing people comparing MLS with the English league or other leagues. It's like comparing a 15 years old child to a 50 or 60 or 70 years old man. Like any child, MLS needs time and money to grow. It's very simple fact. For those who don't like MLS, you are not doing much to help, by staying away from the game. If you can't afford going to the games or it's not convenient, at least turn the TV and watch and help spread the sport. If we didn't help the league grow, it will never grow and become a big league and attract big stars.

  10. Jim Dickinson, July 19, 2010 at 10:42 a.m.

    Paul Gardner feeds on his own negativity.

  11. Josh Welch, July 19, 2010 at 11:15 a.m.

    Look, this piece is just maddeningly silly. Speaking as a neutral American fan (I'm basically teamless because my region lacks a single MLS side) who gets just as annoyed as everyone else by the Euro glory hunters, let me ask you: who gives a flying pile of dung? Is your ability to enjoy the game challenged so much by a relative minority of American fans? Are you so determined to beat up on your ManUre scarf-clad straw men that you have to go out of your way to denigrate four proud soccer nations -- one of which, I might remind you, made the USA look pretty damn silly at times for the first 45 minutes? (But hey, who DIDN'T make the USA look silly at times?)

    To a neutral fan such as myself, the American fans who adopt such sanctimonious poses, as Gardner does here, to decry the "Eurosnobs" are practically as annoying and self-righteous as the targets of their scorn. News flash: American soccer is doing fine. Chill out and grow up.

  12. bgix , July 19, 2010 at 11:36 a.m.

    Just a comment on the Seattle-Celtic match which I attended.

    It is quite common in friendlies to ease strict adherence to the rules not only for the sake of the paying fan, but also to complete the teams mission for the match, which is to give game time players who do not often see the pitch under those conditions, and for evaluation purposes.

    I agree that Paul Ward had every right to blow the play dead, issue a red card, and award a penalty. But it was hardly a *responsibility* in a friendly, and served no actual purpose. The crowd would have been satisfied with conceding the goal. But Seriously. Terry Boss needed some playing time. The crowd wanted another 60 minutes of competitive soccer. The red card sucked a good deal of life out of the stadium. We still ended up seeing a pretty competitive match, thanks to a good deal of Seattle youthful enthusiasm, but it would have been nice to see the full 11-v-11.

    In the end, this was an utterly meaningless result. It should have been allowed to continue as a full 11-v-11 scrimmage.

  13. Austin Gomez, July 19, 2010 at 11:38 a.m.

    Regarding Mr. Antonio Fontanelli's improper Comments:

    The term "friendly" means an Exhibition Soccer Match whereby the 2 Soccer Teams play one another without a 'Loss or Win' being placed on their 'Record' --- in that regard, it counts as onlya "uplifted" Scrimmage with another Team!

    Now, when this "friendly' Exhibition Soccer Match begins, (if the Teams so choose to have a 'neutral" Referee selected from a particular Soccer Federation/Association), then the Game must be played within the context of the FIFA's Law Book (just as in a regular-season Game).

    Hence, this was correctly judged by the Referee as an "Denial of an Obvious Goal-Scoring Opportunity" (which no one viewing this match would deny!). The Celtic Striker had fallen down by the Seattle Goalkeeper's deliberate trip via his hand. The Whistle stopped the Action and thusly pointed to the Penalty-Spot! SIMPLE & CLEAR & CORRECT!

    If it is a so called "friendly" (meaningless Exhibition), then why do the 22 Players FOUL? All the Participants should just practice upon this entire Game with beautiful Dribbling, shrewd Passes, skilful Kicking, etcetera - etcetera - etcetera....................

    Hence, if a 'mandated' CAUTION is present, then the Referee must issue one! If a SERIOUS FOUL PLAY or VIOLENT CONDUCT occur, then a SEND-OFF must be given! !End of Story! If the Refereee does not abide by these "Laws of the Game, then why have a Referee? --instead, just allow One of the intelligent-minded Coaches (who, of course, knows all the the Laws of the Game, etc.) to officiate!

    Mr. Fontanelli: would you rather prefer that a Kick-in-the-Chest or Head-Region (committed purposedly/deliberately by an opposing Player for whatever reason) be allowed to occur without any form of PUNISHMENT??? Just allow all kinds of Misconduct without any Disciplinary Cards whatsoever!!!

    Simply, No LAW & ORDER to be injected by the "Referee"!

    Why don't you go back to the Ancient Colisseum Games wherein Blood of the Combatants makes the Spectators happy with greedy excitement, never played fairly?!?

    What a foolish Comment to make upon a very skilled/energetic/knowledgeable/ conscientious/phusically-fit/courageous Referee!

  14. Nicholas Earle, July 19, 2010 at 12:04 p.m.

    I think its about time you died Paul Gardner. Your mindless babbling and obvious ignorance of the rest of the world and the global game is sickening. You can't even agree that a proper call under FIFA rules by a certified FIFA ref was supposed to happen? And what is this about keeping players on the field and not sending them off? The last time I played in a match like that, problems kept escalating until the offending player was carded and sent from the premises. Imagine that! Once the offeding player was gone, the problem stopped! You should also realize that "eurosnobs" want to see the beautiful game played by skilled players the way it was intended. Not this pussy footed crap that we have made it here in america. Lastly, every time a european club has come over, they have easily managed good results against our pathetic squads, and they weren't even fielding full squads as they would for their own league while we were fielding all players that would play in the regular season in our dumbed down MLS league. Sorry Paul, but you have far outlived the time when america was good at everything, its about time you realize that what they do and how they play in europe is the correct way. By the way, its called football. Get over it. They speak English, we speak American which originated as English. Their terms are the correct terms.

  15. bgix , July 19, 2010 at 12:42 p.m.

    That sounds like some serious anger issues that you've got there, Nicholas. That is the exact attitude that opens the English to ridicule, not just her in the states, but world wide. Quibbling about lingo... Seriously? Refusing to watch the local clubs because they do not offer the same level of play as the EPL? With that standard you might as well not anything from the EPL outside of the big-4 (or perhaps big-6 now). I'd like to see you use that kind of argument to fans of the a Championship team. They should all just get behind some D1 English team. The Eurosnob attitude is what keeps MLS and other countries D1 teams second-rate. Without local support, no side whether it be English, American or New Zealand, will ever improve in quality. For me, I would much rather watch a match that some dork has dismissed as "second-rate" live and in person, over sitting on my fat-ass on a couch or bar-stool seeing some "watch-worthy" club from England. EPL is simply something that I watch in the winter to pass the time before MLS starts up.

  16. Bertrand Hamilton, July 19, 2010 at 12:49 p.m.

    Enough of this negativity; did you see the U-20 womens US v. Ghana & Switzerland? These matches came close to approximating the "beautiful game". I was amazed by the technical, tactical ability of these young women, not to mention the excitment of actual competition. MLS teams playing Euro or South Am. big teams are always suspect as a competition. I prefer Super L. or Champs League games vs. Mexican first division teams as telling competition.

  17. Tom Symonds, July 19, 2010 at 1:56 p.m.

    So, Mr "SoccerSnob" Gardner, are you telling me that the rules could not have been bent in the Sounders-Celtic "Friendly" to allow 11 v 11? That the referee was steadfastly bound to follow the letter of the law in this "Friendly"? That two coaches, in a "Friendly" agreeing to 11 v 11 contrary to the referee's decision would have subverted the very fabric of the sport forever? Alright, then explain to me the 2009 MLS All Star Game "Friendly" between the All-stars and Everton when Kasey Keller re-entered the game after Ricketts, Keller's second-half replacement, was injured and could no longer play? With no other keeper on the bench and in the spirit of fair play and common sense as well as a desire to entertain the paying customers and TV audience, the two coaches agreed to allow Keller back in to keep goal. I don't recall the US Geological Service reporting any earthquakes or Luke Skywalker reporting any disturbances in the force during or after that moment of rule leniency. And, the referee was not scarred for life by bending the rules in that "Friendly", either. Amazing what can be done in a "Friendly." Of course, this sportsmanship, decency, respect for the fans, and understanding of the sense of the occasion can only happen if you have some common sense and you're not a soccer snob like you, Mr Gardner.

  18. Jonny Sinclair, July 19, 2010 at 2:33 p.m.

    Paul, have I missed something on the Samaras incident??? Red cards for DENYING a goal scoring opportunity I can understand (although I wouldn't want to see them in a friendly unless there was some malice involved)....but nothing was DENIED....he went on and bloody scored! (Yes, I said 'bloody'....I am one of those horrible nasty English people you seem determined to have wiped off the planet)

    PS. I truly hope that wasn't a dig at Scholes and Giggs when you seemingly questioned their 'super-star' tag. Both are true legends and Gentlemen of the game who we should only wish more professional players acted like throughoput their careers.

    PPS. Zzzzzzzzzzz, same old rubbish in the article. Change the tune.

  19. v m, July 19, 2010 at 4:40 p.m.

    wow! another anti-world, racist, nazi propaganda from the guy who thinks he knows it all. at first, it was almost comical the stuff he wrote. now, it's just offensive and disrespectful to all the soccer fans out there! to be a real patriot of your country doesn't mean trashing everyone else! you should go back to good ol' american school, so they can teach you manners! super trashy article!!!

  20. Brian Something, July 19, 2010 at 5:11 p.m.

    Given the unfortunate English influence on soccer in the US (both are far more about speed and athleticism than about technical ability or creativity), I'm surprised Gardner would actually praise MLS.

    Oh wait, he didn't really praise MLS. He just bashed English soccer.

    Listen Paul, I generally agree with the content of your posts but a) you write the same column every time and b) you're always negative. Try praising something beautiful about the game without the incessant and repetitive whining.

    I too don't like the fact that the brute northern European style is more influential on US soccer than the skillful, creative (ie: interesting to watch) Latin style. And I don't like that we've chosen England as our youth development model rather than one that's actually been successful in recent years (Argentina, France, Holland...)

    But the repetitive, predictable bashing gets old quickly... even when you're right. Try praising what you do like once in a while.

  21. Michael Haltom, July 19, 2010 at 11:10 p.m.

    Don't take the man too seriously. I think Mr. Gardner was exaggerating in order to illustrate the group of folks who think American soccer is not really soccer. These people think that only Europeans in general and the English in particular can make any real contribution to the game and that only their version is genuine and entertaining. There are many of these people around. You can spot them on message boards by their inevitable post: "It's called football." As if calling a truck a lorry makes it a different thing.

  22. Wendell Gee, July 20, 2010 at 4:22 a.m.

    Maybe so, but fighting self-righteous indignation WITH self-righteous indignation never works.

  23. M K, July 20, 2010 at 7:52 p.m.

    Paul Gardner: the Glenn Beck of soccer commentary. Senseless blather and baseless sensationalism all in one!

  24. Anthony Walsh, July 21, 2010 at 6:19 a.m.

    Australian Football is Rugby now? No Australian Football is Aussie Rules which is not Rugby as a matter of fact. Wendell Gee I might have taken your comment slightly more seriously if it weren't for your outbreak of calling me a "wanker", whats next your going to say some about my mother. Also as another matter of fact I have never heard anyone over here say the result was zero-zero (0-0).
    Michael Haltom your basically saying that people who say "It's called football" are people who find "only their version is genuine and entertainint" is absolute non-sense, I am Irish and I couldn't possible sit through a League of Ireland football game. I watch matches from all European leagues when I get a chance and I would watch MLS more often if I could but unfortunately there is very little coverage on Irish or British tv. Maybe if the MLS wasn't so paranoid of all the other footballing leagues in other countries they would try to get their league shown all over the world.

  25. Charles O'Cain, July 21, 2010 at 10:21 p.m.

    Way past time for Paul Gardner to help out with the job market and step aside for a younger and more worldly replacement. Enough of the American exceptionalism and bumbling provincialism. Step into the future, Soccer America.

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