MLS Monday Review: The Rivalry Lives


As has been the case in the past, the NCAAs bumped up against MLS First Kick Weekend. For example when the Miami Fusion began play in 1998, the game was played on ABC while the tournament was going on. The University of Miami had lost a heart breaker to UCLA in the first round on Friday night, but had the Canes won they would have played at the exact same time as the Fusion’s first ever match. Perhaps it’s a good thing that the Fusion are no more to avoid these sorts of conflicts.

With the tournament going on this weekend I determined it would be nearly impossible to follow MLS as closely as I like. That was until I was reminded of the DC United- LA Galaxy match on Sunday. Since I penned my piece two days ago about the meaningfulness of that rivalry, I’ve gotten a few emails in my inbox. Some emails were nice, but others, well they were as nasty as could be. Take this one for example:

Kartik, I’ve lost a lot of respect for you. Columbus and Houston have won the last three titles and they face off this weekend. DC United and LA Galaxy are MLS’ past while the present will be on display in Houston. I disagree with you a lot. you seem to bash MLS more than the rest of the soccer media combined. But I’ve always respected your opinion until you said a battle between the two worst teams in the league is the biggest match up.

Look you may be a Houston fan. You might be a Columbus fan. You might be a fan of another team. Or you may have supported a team, like me that no longer exists. But if you are truly objective you have to acknowledge that MLS is still around today and thriving from a business standpoint largely because of what two teams did in the first ten years the league existed. I don’t want to rehash my previous blog post but football is about passion. Passion comes from tradition and history. The history of MLS has been almost entirely the history of two teams on opposite coasts who from the get go won matches and drew big crowds. These two teams sustained the league in its infancy and brought the league through tough financial times earlier this decade. Simply throwing two teams on the pitch and assigning them nicknames does not create enough passion to sustain a football league. But history and tradition does. With twenty trophies between these two teams and the only three serious international trophies ever won by MLS clubs included in that total, please do not tell me DC vs the Galaxy  matters less than some other random MLS match ever again.

As for the match, it was so gripping I gave up College Basketball on Sunday afternoon for it. Tony Sanneh and Jovan Kirovski playing again for Bruce Arena brought me back to a Saturday ten years ago when both scored goals as the US crushed Germany 3-0 in Jacksonville, FL. That was another day I gave up College Basketball, skipping Miami’s blowout of  Georgetown to drive north and watch the national team record a famous victory.

Landon Donovan once again proved that those who believe the US has produced better field players than him recently ought to eat their words. Christian Gomez proved he plays better in the red and black than in Aston Villa or West Ham’s colors. (or the colors of the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche. ) Los Angeles proved that despite some horrible weather for Southern California, the DC-LA game means something and they were loud, passionate and helped bring the Galaxy back into the game.

The rivalry lives. The worst thing about MLS 2009 is that they wasted one of the league’s showcase matches in weekend one. The skill level and talent level may be better on each of the other 13 MLS clubs. But they won’t have DC or LA’s tradition, long term support and aura for at least another ten years.


  • Toronto looks like a different team with Amado Guevara and Dwayne De Rosario playing in the same midfield. My concern long term is with so many 30-somethings will artificial turf at BMO take a negative toll on the squad down the road.
  • Chicago’s performance in Frisco was impressive. Good shape at the back, some nice passing and a clear idea of how to break down the defense.
  • The Hoops played better than the scoreline would indicate, but my instinct is that this is going to be a very bad year for them.
  • Kenny Cooper played well but I do not think he’ll be in the league come the end of the summer window.
  • I watched Ramon Nunez have a brilliant match for Puebla against Atlante (which is the closest first division team in a FIFA sanctioned league to South Florida). Nunez seems to have settled in Mexico better than most Central American players after being a perennial problem child in MLS when most Central American footballers love it here.
  • I was underwhelmed by Colorado’s performance at the Home Depot Center. Omar Cummings has developed into a good player, and Conor Casey deserves credit for effort putting a ball off his thigh onto the frame. Under Gary Smith the Rapids look very British, much like many teams in USL. Will it work in MLS? Maybe, but defensive breakdowns cost them this game.
  • Eduardo Lillingston: yes it was his first match but I can see why no FMF club really wanted this guy. I’d love to see the day when MLS actually signs a non DP type player from Mexico who is demand in the FMF. Ariel Graziani was the first in 1999. We haven’t had a second. (Luis Hernandez and Carlos Hermisillio were pre DP signings but were essentially brought in by circumventing cap rules.)
  • I’ve talked about Paulo Nagamura before. I’ve gotten Dave Denholm angry on the air before talking about how stupid the Galaxy were to release him. I’ve rested my case on him before, but he keeps making it so much easier to say “I told you so, Dave.”
  • The Quakes had so many scoring opportunities against New England I lost track. Yet no goals.
  • Bobby Convey began his return to MLS the way he left England. Whining, acting out on the pitch and providing an occasional spark and some quality. If he could ever get his head on straight and injuries sorted, he could really still be something special. But he’s now 25! Can you believe that? I did not even realize he was that old. Makes sense- he was 16 at the start of the 2000 season with DC United. Time to screw your head on straight, Mr. Convey.
  • Brian Quartstad’s weekly look around USL is here.
  • Sorry no review of the Houston-Columbus match. I tried flipping to it at times but the pitch was dire and the football even worse. With the NCAA Tournament on and two other MLS games I just couldn’t take it. In the future we’ll try and cover every game equally but this week I apologize for that not happening. No it wasn’t because of that email I skipped this game while watching LA-DC start to finish. But ironically that is what happened.

11 thoughts on “MLS Monday Review: The Rivalry Lives”

  1. Kartik you are right about the pitch in HOU-CLB – it looks like they were playing on straw or painted dirt. I watched a lot of that and I thought there was tentative play – maybe due to the ‘grass’.
    Opening game of the season and that’s the quality of the surface?

  2. Excellent piece.

    I agree on Lillingston. FMF rejects like Abundis and Osorno end up in MLS. Palencia was an exception.

    Nagamura. Now that’s a real pro. Preki and Bob Bradley are very much about the “bucket” so you have to have two holding midfielders at all times. It helps if one of them can score.

    Why is Cooper left off Bradley’s 22 in favor of Eddie Johnson and Altidore neither of which ever play in Europe? I know MLS is a lower level first division league, but if you are not playing in European SECOND divisions, you ought not to be called in for the national team.

    LA-DC was a brilliant match. The best of the weekend that I saw.

    Good stuff. Keep these Monday posts coming.

  3. For someone who makes some very smart critques about the poor quality of MLS you certainly waste alot of time watching and writing about it. Couldn’t your time be better spend watching or writing about Americans Abroad?

  4. Let me defend Kartik here. I watch MLS every week because I support the American game.

    Am I under any illusions as to its quality? No.

    Is it a bad league? Honestly, it’s not very good. It’s some of the worst soccer on TV, but it is our league.

    Do I follow Americans Abroad? Yes, but to truly understand the game in this country you must follow both and USL and NCAA Soccer also.

  5. Expansion has made the league more unwatchable.

    While the expansion cities have brought passion: Toronto and Seattle, what has been left in its wake is below average soccer. The talent pool is psread too thin and I personally know several players who got better deals to play in USL and that affects the depth of an already shallow and diluted talent pool.

    That’s not the mention the number of Americans who have gone to Europe’s lower leagues to make a decent living. The league really is headed in the wrong direction and fast.

    Also, another thing I need to get off my chest:
    Does anyone honestly believe Philadelphia which has NEVER supported soccer in any way shape or form is going to suceed at the gate for more than the first year or two?

    Philly can be just like New York and New England. Total failures in MLS making the Northeast an MLS wasteland.

    Portland and Vancouver will both work. But Philly? That team could make Miami, Tampa Bay and Kansas City look like attendance juggernauts before it is all said and done.

  6. Have you people seen this?????????????? Worldview: Major League Soccer Not So Major

    Even an American website says it!

    How funny.

  7. No one should assume MLS is a great league yet, and who knows if it ever will be. However, it is our league, and the only live football you will see in many regions of the country. For that reason we need to support it, and we appreciate your support Kartik (though sometimes its more negative then positive).

    One quick point, the Fire defense was suspect at best last week. I’m hopeful it will regain the form of last year, however week 1 saw way too many good chances for Dallas. The good news is Dallas is a poor team that cannot finish.

  8. I really do not understand all the uproar over this piece. It was another fine work by Kartik and I did enjoy his stroll down the early years of the league. I think the Crew deserve a mention as a team that has made MLS last this long. If soccer can make it in Ohio it can make it anywhere. Kartik may have a soft spot we will say for DC and thats good and ok.

    A great rivalry between LA and DC? I do not know about that. I had a chance to listen to the DC post game and the team member interviewed, forgive me I do not recall which one, spoke about the Fire being their great rival. Maybe times have changed and so do rivals but certainly we can all agree that DC and the LAG have played a central role in the still young league.

    Now as to those who say the league is unwatchable or not very good, let me say if your writing in here you must be interested. Yes, we need to keep the better players from North America home and playing here in their prime but the question is can MLS be entertaining, yes of course. For me it is more fun and interesting then it was 5 years ago. Soccer specific stadiums, new teams, new ownership of older teams, stars of the league that are well know to the fan base if not the world wide football audience and a growing media presence. All of the above works to make MLS a great entertainment value on summer nights. Another poster pointed out the special Saturday night games that the Chicago Fire have. Take one in and you well be moved and I bet we can say that about most of the towns in MLS. Seattle for sure has found something it likes. So, I’m all smiles after week one of the season and can’t wait for that first warm summer night at Toyota Park. Which in Chicago may not be until the 4th of July!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *