MLS Goal Award: A Modest Suggestion (again)

By Paul Gardner

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?

11 comments about "MLS Goal Award: A Modest Suggestion (again) ".
  1. KC Soccer Dad, December 12, 2016 at 1:26 p.m.

    Just make your own list Paul. Goal of the year - individual __________. Goal of the year - team __________.Assist of the year ___________. You obviously watch the MLS way more than I do. I'm looking forward to seeing your esteemed list.

  2. Scot Sutherland replied, December 30, 2016 at 12:48 p.m.

    This. +10

  3. Mark Headley, December 12, 2016 at 1:52 p.m.

    team goals are one thing. the last pass, the "assist," is often not the key, most impressive one, however. and a long succession of passes maintaining possession are unlikely to each add to cumulative penetration/breaking down the D.

  4. Allan Lindh, December 12, 2016 at 2:01 p.m.

    Awards are just froth on the beer. Start hiring good refs and ordering them to punish violent play directed predominantly at skill players. That will start the evolution toward a league worthy of respect. (And I mean PUNISH, like in 3 game bans without pay. Second offense, 6 games without pay. Etc. Run the thugs out of the league.)

  5. Joe Linzner, December 12, 2016 at 2:17 p.m.

    I agree that very often the actual scorer gets the credit but getting the ball to the scorer very often deserves the credit. EG, how many of JAs goals are tap ins and how many is he responsible for alone? Which is why the supposed golden boot award is so very misleading. Let's take success ratios. How many opportunities for tap ins were made and or missed by a scorer and additionally how many runs to put himself into a scoring position are made in lie of ball watching or throwing up hands because the ball did not fit into silver plate servings? There should be individual excellence and team excellence. Agree with Mr. Gardner on this one.

  6. Steven SIegel, December 12, 2016 at 2:27 p.m.

    I am far more impressed with some element of teamwork combined with outstanding individual effort. certainly with GOTY, we can have a superlative goal that exemplifies both. Is that too much to ask that a league produces a single goal like that once a year?

  7. beautiful game, December 12, 2016 at 4:22 p.m.

    Who's the MLS referee of the year...they all should win the award.

  8. schultz rockne, December 12, 2016 at 4:51 p.m.

    As we ponder this most tepid year in United States soccer...better: The MOSL (Major Outdoor Soccer League) Crudest Tackle of the Year; and to honor those all-important referees: MOSL Non-call of the Year (presented by former Bay Villager and former Liverpudlian Brad Friedel).

  9. frank schoon, December 12, 2016 at 5:18 p.m.

    I like to see an award for the team that can string 3 passes together!!

  10. Miguel Dedo, December 12, 2016 at 6:10 p.m.

    Amen on the idea that a goal is a team achievement. KCSocccer Dad has a good idea, Soccer America should select and post its own set of awards.

  11. Scot Sutherland, December 30, 2016 at 12:50 p.m.

    Good call PG. I have always wanted an Assist of the Year and a Team Goal of the Year as well. I think Free Kick of the Year would be a good one as well. How about adding Pass of the Year to the list? We in American like to give out awards, let's just go all the way with it.

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