There are some rather important lessons to be learned from this week’s MLS All-Star game. As these occasions go, this was one of the better games, featuring, for most of the time, Bayern Reserves rather than Bayern Munich.
But it had its sour moments. For starters, Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola could learn a thing or two about common courtesy and class behavior. His post-game snub of MLS coach Caleb Porter was appalling -- refusing a handshake, preferring to wave an admonitory finger in Porter’s direction.
We have Sunil Gulati’s word for it that it all ended well between the two. Maybe so, but there was no excuse for this public rudeness, which was both churlish and childish.
Whatever the provocation. And there was some provocation. What upset Guardiola and left Porter looking uncomfortable, if not actually apologetic, were some examples of excessively physical play by the All-Stars.
What we’re looking at here is a fundamental problem with the All-Star game. It is not a soccer tradition. It’s roots are in baseball and other American sports. All-Star games do not exist, to my knowledge, in any soccer country.
None of that would be of any consequence if MLS kept its All-Star game to itself. Made it an internal affair -- East vs West, Americans vs. Imports, that type of thing, ideas that have been tried before but which, it seems, don’t electrify the fans.
So the idea of international opposition was taken up in 2005. An idea that radically altered the landscape. Now the All-Star game was not just a domestic mid-season fun fest, giving fans a chance to see all the stars in one friendly game. It became, immediately, an occasion by which the caliber of MLS could be measured against the world. (There was also, still is, a hint that at least some of the All-Stars see the game as an opportunity to impress the Europeans).
Some success (the 3-2 win over Chelsea in 2012 was the highlight) has been largely offset by stern lessons inflicted by ManU and Roma. This year, the confidence of the MLS All-Stars was evidently high, a feeling that “we” were good enough to give Bayern Munich a run for its money.
That was an enthusiasm based largely on the decidedly suspect evidence of a 1-2-1 win-loss-tie World Cup record. But Jurgen Klinsmann said that was a great performance (well, he would, wouldn’t he?), so look out Bayern. MLS was out to prove that it couldn’t be kicked around.
Suddenly the All-Star game is not a fun fest. It has become a test of MLS maturity. The league’s machismo is being tested. In that atmosphere, it’s hardly surprising that a determination not to take any kicks might easily brim over into a willingness to deliver kicks.
What Bayern had every right to expect -- a preseason warm-up game, a chance to look at the Bayern youngsters, above all a mildly competitive game free of injuries -- was not what the MLS All-Stars had in mind.
There you have the birth of two heavy second-half tackles that angered Guardiola. Osvaldo Alonso going in hard on Xherdan Shaqiri, then Will Johnson recklessly challenging Bastian Schweinsteiger. Unfortunately, Porter has some responsibility here, for both Alonso and Johnson were his own additions to the roster.
But the tone of the MLS team had already been set by an original lineup including Aurelien Collin, Tim Cahill. Add in Maurice Edu along with Alonso and Johnson and you have a team virtually guaranteed to collect a card or two. Both Alonso and Johnson did get yellow cards for their efforts. Schweinsteiger got a bruised ankle.
“We will prepare better ...” said Guardiola. Presumably meaning next time. It sounded more like a threat than a commitment. Why would he want a repeat? Revenge for a meaningless defeat? Why would any European team (or South American team, should MLS ever get around to inviting one) want to get involved in an exhibition game involving a snarling opponent determined to show that it’s not a pushover?
An MLS All-Star team playing a top European club team sounds like a great idea but in fact it raises difficulties that are not easy to overcome. The concept is unknown to the rest of the soccer world and therefore unlikely to be taken seriously.
The timing -- dictated by the MLS season -- is not good for the Europeans, who are not yet ready for a blood and thunder type game. And from now on, you can be sure that is the sort of game that MLS will want -- trying to prove that Don Garber’s vision of MLS as one of the world’s top leagues is not a silly dream.
But it’s going to sound silly if the game results in claims of a “win over Bayern Munich” which everyone knows is not the truth of the matter.
Hidden in this is a lesson for MLS. It is quite clear from the players made available to Porter that MLS is happy to present itself as a physical league. We have even been told by referee Mark Geiger that MLS referees have been instructed to ignore certain fouls in the interests of a “game-flow model.”
Whatever that game-flow model is, Guardiola clearly didn’t think much of it. Nor, I assume, will any other coach trying to get his team fit for an upcoming season be too pleased.
For the moment, the All-Star game doesn’t fit in with the global game. Not in terms of scheduling; nor can it make much sense if one team is treating it as a serious endeavor while the other is playing below full strength and trying to ensure that none of its players gets injured. Double the importance of that last consideration if we really are dealing with deliberately lax refereeing.
If the game cannot be imbued with genuine soccer relevance, then we are left with yet another marketing event. A return to an internal game, between two factions from within MLS, seems the best that can be achieved for now. That will maintain it as an American tradition. If the fans don’t want to watch that, if it’s not “marketable,” then the idea needs to be dropped.
Which might give MLS more time to consider what sort of league it wants to be, what sort of soccer it wants to play, what sort of players it wants to attract. And what sort of refereeing it wants.
Your point about the inherent awkwardness of the all star game is valid. That said, I don't shed any tears for Bayern et al. They rightfully see the US as ultimately the biggest, richest soccer market on the planet, and they are falling over themselves to build their brand here. It will not be long before they start playing a few regular league games in the US, borrowing a page out of the NFL book. Don't be such babies, don't act like you are doing us a favor, and above all else, Pep, don't destroy what had been an excellent brand-building expedition in a single moment of childish self pity.
For once I agree with Paul's analysis, and that doesn't come often. However, until the MLS attains a level closer to that of the prime European leagues, the alternatives seem to be sufficiently limited that we are left with the existing format, for better or worse.
Paul, you're right about one thing in this column; Pep's behavior was churlish and childish. As for the concept of the MLS playing a competitive game against a top club from Europe instead of a non-competitive interleague scrimmage, I couldn't disagree more. I think the new standard is brilliant; yes, it is not meaningful in that an MLS win does not mean that MLS is better than Bayern, we all know that. But a win, admittedly against a team of mostly reserves (but with Lewandowsky and Shaquiri, some pretty talented reserves!), does raise some eyebrows, and I would guess, at least gets the MLS noticed abroad, which is a good thing, when it comes time for MLS to attempt to recruit talented foreigners. Yet because the game is relatively meaningless, players can engage in fanciful tricks and players can (mostly) refrain from doing dirty/illegal things they think might help them win a regular season game, so the creativity can flow (and of all people, PG should recognize that). So I think it's the best of both worlds; competitive but not so crucial players will do anything to win (winning by cheating in a game such as this would be worse than losing). I do agree that Jahir didn't call some fouls that should have been called, but generally, I thought it was a clean (those two overzealous tackles excepted), competitive game that was exciting and showcased the sport. I'm disappointed that Paul is too much of a curmudgeon to see that.
FCB came for the cash and to market their brand. No one forced them to take the match. There is a history of the game (any google search will give a reader ample information about it) so ignorance of the kind of game it is is no defense. Man Utd has been in it twice - they don't seem to mind the risk. And, in fairness, the Bayern players didn't seem all that worked up either...they stayed, shook hands, waved to the crowd - everything you'd expect them to do after the match. What we saw from the bench was an arrogant, petulant Catalan and staff who've done this before: Seattle 2009. His entire Barca team walked off p-o'd at game's end (they won 4-0) without nary a wave or 'adios' to the crowd because the 67000 cheered for the Sounders and not the blaugrana. Losing to the MLS All-Stars in front of KHR and Der Kaiser is an embarrassment of monumental proportion for a club that fancied it's B Team to be better than an MLS hodgepodge of 23 players. I am sure Rummenigge is livid over Pep's display and the damage it has done to Bayern's image.
I believe that this match has damaged MLS, too. Why? Because no matter what the handshake resolution is/was, no matter what the PR spin is put on the match, when Pep returns to Europe and talks to the people he talks to (and there are many who worship at his altar), he will say MLS has bad pitches, terrible refs, and thug players...all of which may be true...but now it will be etched in stone because Pep said it. And that's something that Gulati won't be able to kiss and make better.
Alonoso and Collin are thugs -- whoever picked them for a "friendly" had s..t for brains. Will Johnson's a good kid, he was apologetic for his challenge on Schweinsteiger. But the Bayern players stuck a couple in pretty hard also. The current format is a winner, just have a little adult supervision in picking the squads. No criminals, no thugs, no out-of-control crazies. And so we all now know that Guardiolo is a pompous ass -- he has lots of company among overpaid European coaches.
One match does not make a league--I wish both teams would be happier with an open-ended offensive match for the benefit of the fans instead of anyone else they are trying to please.
Allan Lindh, you hit the nail on the head! When I heard that Collin and Alonso were chosen, I was astonished (not that Keane is any sweetheart either). So our mantra for next time: "No criminals, no thugs, no out-of-control crazies."
This irritated me but I was even more irritated that Guardiola went and lied about not seeing Porter (toward he wagged his finger once and snubbed twice). My guess is he later realized how much of a jacka** he was and was embarrassed. I'd rather he just said my bad. Either that or he's so arrogant that he really didn't see Porter because he's privileged royalty and he "doesn't see" commoners.
Guardiola should schedule friendlies that provide more of the resistance level he's looking for: the Washington Generals and a U8 team. I love skillful possession play and hate goonish soccer as much as they come but two somewhat hard tackles in 90 mins does not justify Deity Pep's tantrum.
Pep, Fussball is a contact sport.playing the starters to try & retrieve the match was stupid, leaving the many Bayern fans there(including me) sad, should have started them to much fanfare, & then pulled them......the Portland fans were awesome, & helped win the game, even tho they booed Clint mercilessly ( he just smiled at the TA) & you wonder if they would be that dedicated if Portland had an NFL team. Bayern US fans-learn some chants!
Sorry PG, I don't want to watch 46 MLS Players Wacking the ball around in some Meaningless Game...It was toough enough watching these 23, after all the players that Scratched... Format is Great... You know, Sometimes we Gringos can come up with a Good idea that the rest of the world can imulate, Like McDonalds, Coke, Democracy..**Referee Spray Cans** !!!... Paul, if you really want to blame someone, then look no further than your Sweetheart of an Arsenal Player, Thierry Henry... He was Captain, And he was the one who started the High Pressure and Late Hits on the Bayern Players... And I say Good For Him... Show that Arrogant Prick from Barca, how the Yanks play Soccer... Oui, Oui Henri !!!!
"East vs. west" is boring. "MLS-US stars vs. MLS-World stars" is another boring game and not fair for the World stars. Current format is not fair for international teams in pre-season. I have a suggestion: Change the format to a "match for charity" like many of the charity games that take place around the world. In this match, the MLS all-star team play against a selection of the world stars for a charity. You can bring together stars like Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar or even some recently retired stars like Donovan. And like Allan stated above, "no criminals."
Of course! I should have realized that the heart of the problem was KLINSMANN! He has convinced people, including MLS all stars apparently, that the World Cup was a success when we all should now realize, thanks to Paul, that it was an utter disaster brought on by having a GERMAN coach and GERMAN players. If it wasn't for Klinsmann, everyone would realize that our players have been dismal failures and they would have gone out on the field resigned to that fact and simply accepted their drubbing, as Paul would. The fact that they went out and, whatever the result, played pretty attractive soccer, built from the back and thru the middle and didn't simply bunker down and bash the ball out to no one in particular, is further proof of Klinsmann skullduggery. That bastard! Thanks Paul for once again pointing out that Klinsmann is the source of all our problems.
Agree w/ PG on only account; Pep is "childish" and should be cordial and shake hands even w/ his skinny jeans attire. Pep/PG are over reacting to a 63 min Alonso foul that was reckless and cardable, but this one foul does not label the game as "unfriendly". Johnson's foul was not filled w/ malicious intent; it's soccer for crying out loud not an international dance! Pep would have perhaps showed a lil more class if they would have thumped the MLS stars. I bet he gladly excepts the $ and doesn't wag his finger at that juncture. And so what if the MLS stars use this as their statement game. Everyone knows the soccer standard lies over seas, but you must start somewhere to try and make positive steps, Hell we are still in soccer infancy in comparison to the one sport countries. And our 23 MLS guys were not hard to watch; they played great against quality opponents even if it were their preseason mode.
PS Pep needs to man up and straight out apologize and cut the excuse/lie that he did not see Caleb.
PSS Cuddos to Landon's winner; Should have been their late for USMT - WC for such a spark!
I don't agree with Paul's opinion.
First, I like the format of the ASG. If you are going to have one, this is a very good format.
Second, the play was not overly physical even for a friendly and frankly I thought only Alonso's tackle as one that warrented a yellow. Johnson's was much more an unintentded collison than a reckless tackle.
Third, soccer is a physical game and any time you put 22 players out on the pitch there is some chance even with the most well meaning play of some late tackle or over enthusiastic challenge. If anyone expects NO chance of injury from games then DON'T PLAY.
Fourth, the game was very well played with some wonderful moments from both sides of the ball. The passing, interplay and the goals were terrific. The game flowed and was an excellent statement for MLS.
Fifth, Sports are competitive. When MLS put a bunch of very competitive players on the field they are going to try to win. They were not dirty, but they did play hard. If the Bayern team was not prepared to play in this game and lost, so be it. I think what you saw was a very competitive coach who was very upset his team lost. It was not a dirty match. It was a well played game with really one reckless tackle.
Sixth, Pep demonstrated a complete lack of class. The indignation over the tackles was a red herring. You lost. Get over it. In a broader sense the game doesn't mean much. And as a coach didn't you want your team to be tested to see how some of the players respond to a competitive game. I just feel bad for Caleb Porter who bore the brunt of the classless behavior.
Pep had to be blind not to have seen Caleb Porter. And if he didn't see Porter, why did Pep's assistants refuse to shake Porter's hand? I was delighted to see Landon get the winning goal. To all those spin doctors still saying Donovan should have been in the World Cup, remember how everyone said Julian Green had taken Landon's place on the team? Okay. Drop Julian and pick Landon. So, Landon plays instead of Wondo and makes the shot that Wondo missed. The score would be the same because Julian wasn't there for the first goal. C'mon, folks...those of us following Landon since his first World Cup and throughout MLS know that he can pull off the life-saving goal in the last few seconds of the game and he can also disappear and never really show up for a game. JK brought in 3 young kids who played lights out. I don't know of Anybody who supported those picks. He saw something in them that he felt the team needed. He felt there was something missing with Landon. His 3 young picks were genius. LD gave a very gracious interview after the All Star game. He announced his upcoming retirement the next day. Maybe JK sensed that in Landon's play during the WC camps. We'll never know.
I knew if I kept reading Paul's diatribe to the end he'd find some way to work in a dig Jurgen Klinsmann and by golly he did not let me down :) It's almost funny now reading him because he is so predictable.
Pep was a classless buffoon and everyone seems to agree on it. Full marks to the Bayern PLAYERS who showed class, shook hands, etc. I will give Schweinstager (is that a classic German name or what) for being po'd because he did get hurt.
Paul, you were a good writer back in the 70's but now your anti Klinsmann rants sound like the ramblings of a grumpy old man. Jurgen is staying... get over it. Also, who was the person who set up the framework in 2006 for the team that just won the World Cup... Klinsmann. I don't know if he can do the same thing for the USA but I am willing to see how he does. I have liked every decision he has made... except for the Donovan snub, but as someone else said, maybe he saw something we did not
Ginger, your memory had betrayed you. Green's goal was in the second extra time. Wondo's miss was in the injury time of regulation. If Wondo scored, the US would've won 1-0 and qualified to the next round. It would've been exactly like Donovan's goal against Algeria in 2010. Secondly, every coach takes few young players to the World Cup. It's nothing new. Actually, this is how Donovan ended up on the squad to the WC 2002. But because Klinsi didn't select Donovan, arguably the best US player, people brought up the other selections.
You're right, Gus. My apologies. I watched each and every one of the World Cup games and they started to run together after awhile. I remember Donovan and "Gumby" Beasley in the 2002 WC, though. Arena called Beasley "Gumby" because he always bounced back up immediately after going down. I sincerely feel that Landon shot himself in the foot when he told the press that he was no longer able to give his all on the practice field and then do the same in a game. I don't doubt for a minute that that statement planted the seed of doubt about LD's attitude and ability in Klinsmann's mind. We're talking about a coach who expected his players to eat, breathe, drink, sleep and dream nothing but soccer. We're talking about a coach who grew up in a, basically, one sport world where soccer is the be all and end all: a man from a very stoic culture. Being married to an American and living in the US does not ensure that he will understand all the nuances of the American mindset. This never would have happened if Donovan had asked his agent if it would be wise to say anything to the press before he made his revelation. I think it's extremely unfortunate that Klinsmann didn't and probably still doesn't really understand the mentality of a more cerebral athlete like Donovan. They each misjudged the other, to the detriment of the team...although we did get out of the group even though few people thought that would be possible. So often wrong things happen in our lives due to misunderstanding and poor communication. It happens at home, at work, everywhere. At the first practice our new British coach held, he yelled, "Hold it!", as our girls raced down the field. EVERY ONE of the girls stopped immediately. Not what coach had in mind...he meant for them to hold on and keep control of the ball as they ran.
OK; there were two harsh (overly harsh tackles) but it was not the end of the world, Paul. These games are for fun, maybe, but no player wants to look foolish. There have been many All Star games with no problems. Regardless, no excuse for Pep. It's not like Porter was standing on the side line telling players "break a leg".
What an enjoyable football match to watch. it was fast, free flowing, some excellent interplay by both teams. The referee let them play, that's what all leagues are trying to do now. The players want to play the game as well. Pep "god-iola" behavior was shameful to himself and his employer. Pep put a dress on, this is a contact sport? The tackles were marginal at best. The MLS is really starting to cook with gas, it's coming all the time...inch by inch.
Ginger, I understand all your points and they are all valid. But for me, the reason for Donovan's exclusion from the WC team goes above and beyond. I have followed Klinsmann's relation with Donovan since before his time at Bayern Munich. Klinsmann used to adore Donovan and considered him the best US player until he took him to Bayern Munich and things started to get sour. Imagine, Klinsmann, with all the money that was available for him at Bayern, he chose to bring only Donovan. Imagine how much adoration there was. After he got fired from that job, one could see how Klinsmann's opinion changed drastically, from his comments about Donovan afterward, and he had expressed them very freely. The adoration turned into disrespect. And when US soccer hired Klinsmann as coach, it became very clear that there was a problem between the two. Unfortunately for Donovan, things started to get worse and he became unhappy with the new situation in the USMNT and this affected his love to the game. You can see from their body language at the side line that they didn't like each other. Giving the captaincy to other players, the Sabbatical Donovan took, and the frequent criticism through the media were just symptoms of this bad relationship. Donovan kind of knew that Klinsmann will deliver his dagger at the World Cup selection and he was preparing himself for that moment with his comments that you referred to. There is no doubt in my mind that if Klinsmann hadn't been hired as the USMNT coach, we would've seen Donovan continuing to play soccer until his late 30s. I am still waiting for a book, to be written by Grant Wahl, and to be called "the Klinsmann-Donovan experience" that will reveal what exactly happened at Bayern Munich. It's where all started.
@Gus... I think Lahm, he's written a book that includes that time at Bayern... My mind is a little vague of the exact details, but what does that matter,,, it's a Blog right!?!?.. Lots of Backlash From the Bayern Players and Management about the Southern California "Zen" approach of Klinsi and his Importing of American Trainers(Physios) and Shrinks... Except for Magath's Comment that LD wasn't even Good Enough for their 2nd team, I have no Strong Recall(too many Drugs or Headers in the 70's) of Donovan's Support or Lack of Support for JK, at the time... Remember, JK was FIRED with 5 games to go, in his FIRST SEASON, with Bayern... I checked my Typo above.. Should be: Landon or Wondo,, Landon or Wondo, who would you rather have in front of the goal... (I Blame the Headers on this one, No more Drugs.. )
If everybody keeps justifying that sore tempered catalan that is Pep he'll keep being as anoying as a spoiled kid can be....there were some really bad injuries in "friendly" matches before the World Cup and no coach did what he did...the game is played as it should be even in friendlies if it's in front of a crowd paying to see a football game and not a training routine....the referee stopped and carded when he should, so the flow of the game was correct.
I agree with Paul. All Star games are rubbish. A more practical MLS approach would be to have an international game between the MLS champion and a foreign club.
Paul why do we have to do everything like the rest of the world. We are creating our own model.
Those Bayern players that were not starters on Bayern would be first team on many European teams. They play together so there communication is much better than the MLS team which was minus many of their stars as well. This evens things out a bit but, still the edge would go to a team that practices together all the time. Nobody complained about Cahill absorbing punishment. Pep needs to stop acting and pouting just shake hands and go home with the money you made. That would be a class act.
Gus, good insight on the Donovan-Klinnsman relationship; there was definitely something there, and your explanation makes sense (I look forward to Wahl's book ;-)). I like JK, and thought that what he brought to Germany (the American "physios", etc) were positive signs that he was willing to think outside the box, and would be a creative coach. But I think, especially at the highest levels, coaching is all about player management, and there he failed miserably with Donovan. I don't think Donovan is a particularly difficult player to manage, but he is definitely unique, and that quality has served him well throughout his career. If Donovan had physical limitations (loss of speed, endurance), I could understand leaving him off. But to say Donovan would not have the right attitude at the WC, I find unbelievable. Donovan has always risen to the occasion (as his play in the All-Star game demonstrated), and I have no doubts he would have done so in the WC.
Just get rid of the all star game. You can't help but expect what happened here as noted with the play of our MLS players. Garber is always clearly measuring our performance so what do you expect? An east vs west game would also not attract attention. The idea of the MLS cup champion playing a European champion which sounds more interesting would also result the same way. Lastly, you can see how many players suddenly were pulled out by the coaches for being so called injured (there were quite a few)
As I see it, Porter's only 'crime' was "lèse-majesté". If Pep doesn't want to risk any pre-season fender-benders on his fleet of Ferraris, he should keep them locked up in the garage. FCB did in fact succeed in expanding its global brand...of arrogance.
Secret video appears to have been released on Pep's "preparation" for a guaranteed injury-free rematch with the MLS All-Stars:
Alan's comment at the start of this (first comment) is correct; FC Bayern wants "in" the money bandwagon in North America. Plus let's face it; it only really matters when a player like a marquee name Falcao for Colombia goes down injured for 5 months or more, missing out on a World Cup and FIFA laments the loss of media/money revenue a name like Falcao brings. Now, as to the format for this MLS event, I'll let others discuss the merits or disadvantages to the current MLS All Star set up. What I want to share with Mr. Gardner is that the overly aggressive play when Europe's cameras are watching is just always going to be inherent. These MLS players most all were not at the Brazil World Cup and will never see much limelight on such a larger world stage. So they seek a moment like a MLS All Star match to shine, stand out, do something, simply justify being selected. That's inherent. It's part of human nature. But here is what Mr. Gardner and everyone else must know: Any player putting on a FC Bayern Adidas shirt and going out for 45 minutes or more in a first team match - of any kind anywhere on the globe - knows that a crude slide tackle might well be coming, an overly aggressive shoulder, a poke, a very firm and solid shoulder charge, etc. at many moments before halftime or the final whistle. No, I abhor the unfair and unnecessary roughness, the ugly 'gamesmanship' that is NOT fair play too - more than most anyone I know. But, this too, is just too much part of human nature. Because the one making the wrong, sly guy clip on the heels (or just the attempt) is wearing a shirt a lot less prestigious than that FC Bayern Munich red and white one. It's the same if a team is facing AC Milan, Benfica, Galatasary, Chelsea, PSV Eindhoven, Boca Juniors, or Flumenese in a friendly or "midly competitive" match anywhere in the world, whether in Sinapore, in Thailand, in Qatar, or in India. Because I am not sure there really is such a thing as a friendly when a Champions League, Copa Liberatdores, or UEFA Europa League team comes calling.
Let's also think of how utterly competitive and often (sadly) overly cutthroat it is just to be wearing a FC Bayern shirt. Most of these guys did not reach this level without lots of experience in the culling out of the competition for one's desired playing slot. These are things they learned in the schools of hard knocks already at age 13 and 14. Everyone in these lineups is always competing; the competing never ceases. Ever seen an inner squad set of practices prior to players getting cut at this level? One's place in a squad is assured for today; it is not assured for tomorrow or even 12 hours from now - the oldest lesson in all of top level sports. Plus the fan who pays upwards of $85 for the cheapest ticket doesn't want to see the 22 players and subs just strolling about. Every World Cup local teams in the towns that get selected to host a team at a hotel/resort always have the VERY SAME earnest request: "Netherlands! (Or Colombia, Chile or Italy or Denmark) Come play our local adult men's team in a 90 minute friendly! It will do wonders for your home media, for local color, for local affinity and relations for you as our honored guests! It will be a true regional festival! You just cannot say no!" But: "No" is exactly what the national team managers almost always say. For the very same reason that the Pep Guardiolas want to act all sour about overly aggressive play. It's, sad but true, the nature of the game, human behavior. However, haven't the Mr. Gardner's seen the incredibly impressive lads who are only 19 or 22 years old, 23 or 25 years old like the Swiss FC Bayern Shakiris of the professional ranks, who have that sixth sense in all these games. They know that the more vicious elbow or tackle is coming a second or two before it does and dodge it or sidestep it with an uncanny ability that does indeed separate them from the rest of the 99% who play their sport. They just mostly have that truly uncanny ability that is part of their makeup as elite athletes. Also, let's please be candid about Mr. Guardiola. Look back at what Pep Guardiola was doing to earn his spot (and keep for years) in the FC Barcelona lineup 20 years ago and when he featured for Spain at tournaments like the Euro 2000. He was doing the very same thing that he now feigns to lament.
So maybe there are some who want a "Messi & Friends" format like what I saw in Miami a few years back? Final score was 9 - 8, something like that. A mildly frolicking strollabout of 90 minutes in high humidity, featuring nearly choreographed slow motion film penalty box scenes where they'd pass it around about 8 or 9 times before they'd finally just get tired of not shooting and then finally someone sees that the farce cannot be faked much more and shoots on goal. Say - this is serious: Whatever happened to team captains? You know, that one on the field with the left armband. If a player thinks it is starting to get "chippy" (a US favorite expression, I have learned), well, isn't that where the real player steps up and has a few well chosen words with his counterparts on the other side? Can't the players help regulate this? Isn't that what we all learn in sandlot sports at age 10 or 11 latest in life? I don't just think they can, I know they can self regulate if play starts getting too unfair and could result in real injuries. If it starts to get a bit out of control and a few players are starting to make reckless moves, lunges, elbows, etc., well, for goodness sakes, "professional players," step up and handle it in a firm but gentlemanly approach. Guess what. It works. 17 year old high schooolers do this. So how about you pros? (At MLS level too, or any level for that matter) Match officials who do the officiating with a real soul for the love of the game - they do love to see this. They love to see when a mature player steps up and handles this all on his own, in his own way, with own initiative. Off the ball. During a short stoppage. Subtly but in a demonstrating way that the other players all grasp. It works. Do any players of the game at the MLS level read Mr. Gardner's commentary and then these reader remarks below? If you do, then step up. Self regulate. Take responsibility. You don't need us armchair old people on fan websites to do for you what you can easily do for yourselves. Nor do you need league officials or anyone else. Man up. Do it.