Sunday, December 11, 2016

MLS Cup 2016 Will Forever Be Remembered as the Championship Won without a Shot on Goal

Toronto FC fans bundled up at MLS Cup 2016
Saturday's MLS Cup should never be forgotten. It should be about lessons to learn for how MLS must take responsibility and leadership on making changes to its game going forward.

The better team didn't win the Cup, but that's why they play the games. There are plenty of times in U.S. sports history when it can be argued that the better team didn't win in the championship game. 1983's NCAA basketball championship won by Jim Valvano coached North Carolina State on the last play versus Houston's Phi Slama Jama comes to mind.

The problem in this soccer championship won by the weaker team is that the Seattle Sounders had zero shots on goal and won on penalty kicks after an additional 30 minutes of overtime play. (They went 120 minutes without making a shot on goal prior to the penalty kicks.) They won with defense, which is fine. That's how the Denver Broncos won this past Super Bowl over the Carolina Panthers with Von Miller, a linebacker/lineman, taking MVP honors. But, when a team can't threaten a goal with the very basic act necessary to be considered as offensive in nature, more scrutiny with regards to the rules of the game must be analyzed.

We must understand how this could happen. Kicking a ball towards the opponents defending goal shouldn't be so difficult that it doesn't happen, ever. It's inexcusable. And, I'm not just referring to it not happening in a championship game. If the two sides are of the same degree of professional ilk, shots on goal should take place in every game of a professional league.

I'd rather not watch a 0-0 match, especially in a championship, but if it is an exciting one, with plenty of creativity and shots on goal by foot or head, I'm alright with that. However, no shots on goal, in the most important match of the year is alarming, especially considering that pro soccer in the U.S. struggles to maintain an identity in the busy sports calendar. Many pundits speculate that few goals in soccer is why the mainstream public keeps away. How many games could fans put up with one or both teams not getting shots on goal?

Peter Vermes, the head coach of Sporting KC, said it best when he commented that MLS should develop its game to accommodate a U.S. sports fan public. I suggest MLS look at trying to be a guinea pig for FIFA by adding substitutes, changing the offside rule and making the goals larger. These are posted on the 'rules' page for this site.

Additionally, I think Toronto FC was at a disadvantage with the cold climate and it hindered their performance. The exceptionally cold weather provided an opportunity for Seattle. A long-term defensive posture became more of a reliable strategy to employ. The cold prohibited crisp passing, smooth ball control and spontaneity on the ball from Toronto, while bringing the two teams to a more even level of play.

I realize that soccer is played on really cold days in many countries, but, typically, not the kind of cold that happened Saturday in Toronto. MLS would be better to move up its playoffs and championship on the calendar. In the past, I have suggested an early March to late August regular season for mainstreaming purposes with U.S. sports fans, ending in September with the playoffs and MLS Cup. Many critics would suggest that the international breaks needed from FIFA matches wouldn't allow for a March to August schedule, but with the added 'substitutes' suggested on this site to amend the rules, those international breaks wouldn't be a problem.


  1. The basic problem with soccer is the fact that even teams dominating weaker opponents can have a hard time scoring if the opponent has an effective defense. This could be fixed if there was a secondary score system. What if tied scores like 0-0 or 1-1 would be decided by which team forced the other to clear the ball more often over the goal line? As the rules now stand that would only result in a corner kick but the allure of sitting back for 90 or 120 minutes would lose all allure if your down by five "goal line clearances". Then you would simply have to go for that deciding goal thus making defensive ply styles much less attractive.

    1. really awesome idea-has common sense virtues. won't apply for a 2-2 game or above tie, right? first time I've ever heard of it. Could be tough to get instituted and it may disrupt the integrity of the sport. I like that you are efforting, thanks for the comment.