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Top 5 Lowlights of American Soccer in 2009

2010 is upon us, which means that it’s the time of year when we journalists, pundits, analysts, and/or columnists take stock of the year that has passed and provide you with our lists of the past years highlights and lowlights. So, to start things of for me, here is my take on the lowlights of the year that was in American soccer, in no particular order:

The Continued Presence of Plastic Pitches:

Nothing irks me more than watching a professional sport that is being played on a plastic pitch or field. Astroturf, Field Turf, or whatever other product that is out there for teams to waste money on are utter crap, in my opinion. Not only do they look bad on television, but when it comes to football, such surfaces often exert an unnatural force on the ball. While progress is being made in Toronto and New York/New Jersey as the MLS teams there move away from plastic pitches to natural grass, the introduction of Seattle Sounders FC at the turf covered Qwest Field and the news that Portland’s stadium will sport the green plastic carpet unfortunately means that MLS will not be rid of turf anytime soon. If the Green Bay Packers can play on a natural grass field, there is no reason to have the plastic carpets in MLS.

The 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final:

On July 26, 2009, the United States faced off against Mexico in the CONCACAF Gold Cup Final at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. After 90 minutes plus stoppage time, Mexico walked away with a 5-0 victory over the host country. This was one of the worst losses to Mexico on US soil in years. This victory also signaled the fact that Mexico, under the guidance of Javier Aguirre, has returned to a place of prominence in CONCACAF. While some fans have tried to dismiss this loss by claiming the match featured a Mexico A/B squad against a USMNT B/C squad, the reality is that both of these squads featured many players who were not regulars on their national teams. In the end, the biggest lesson of this match was the when it comes to depth, the United States has work to do and Mexico is one of the deepest, if not the deepest team in CONCACAF.

The USL/TOA-NASL Situation:

In August, word came out that Nike, which had unknowingly bought United Soccer Leagues when it acquired UMBRO, sold USL to NuRock Soccer Holdings, LLC, despite prior representations to the owners of USL clubs that the league was being sold to Jeff Cooper of St. Louis. Several of the owners of the USL-1 clubs, which made up the second division of professional football in North America, broke away from USL to team up with Jeff Cooper to create a new North American Soccer League, which applied to USSF for second division status. Today USSF decided not to recognize, at this time, either USL or NASL as the second division and gave both entities 7 days to work out some kind of resolution. This saga, which has been thoroughly covered here and at our sister sites, is unfortunate and has had numerous disappointing twists and turns, which, in the end, could adversely affect the long term development of football in the United States if it does not reach a quick, but proper resolution.

Real Salt Lake are Eastern Conference Champions:

For the second season in a row the MLS playoffs have resulted in a team winning a conference championship even though it is not a member of said conference. In 2008 RedBull New York won the Western Conference Championship, and in 2009 Real Salt Lake won the Eastern Conference Championship. There’s numerous complaints about the playoff system in MLS, but I don’t have any problem with the number of teams that make the playoffs, look at the NBA; the fact that a team with a poor regular season record can make a deep run in the playoffs, look at Mexico or the NFL; or that the playoffs even exist, playoffs are a tradition in the United States and playoffs exist in other first division leagues around the world. What I do have a problem with is that the playoffs are structured in such a way that a team from the Eastern Conference can win the Western Conference Championship and that a team from the Western Conference can win the Eastern Conference Championship. As the league grows, I expect MLS to redress this issue so that these kinds of results cannot happen in the future.

The Continued Poor State of Officiating in MLS:

I know MLS does not control the officials who work at MLS matches, that said officials are controlled by USSF, but since MLS is the first division league it should put pressure on USSF to overhaul the training of officials and improve their ability to officiate a match without taking complete control of the match. I hope MLS and USSF will work on this in 2010, but I’m not holding my breath.

Those are my lowlights from the year that was in American football, look for my highlights over the holiday weekend.

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33 Comments

33 Comments

  1. You little nerds

    August 3, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    Bottom line. Soccer is a children’s game in the US . Why? Because in the US we are capable of a higher level of thinking and applying that to sports. Kick the can is fun for kids, but real men play real sports. There is a reason this silly “sport” is such a hit in the 3rd world countries. There is lack of higher education, therefore they are stuck with a life of poverty and, thus, soccer thrives.

  2. Gitecmo

    January 2, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    I’d love to comment here, but I’m still blocked.

  3. Ken

    January 2, 2010 at 9:26 am

    I don’t mind the crossover of teams of the two conferences as long as the eight teams with the most points are in the playoffs. RSL would not have been in the playoffs this year if MLS would have just taken the four top teams from each conference.

    I also like the idea mentioned here of naming the first place team in each conference as the Eastern and Western Champions and have the eight teams play for the MLS Cup. Of course if they did that then RSL would not have added the EC trophy to their current collection of trophies.

  4. DCUDiplomat96

    January 2, 2010 at 12:29 am

    there is Nothing wrong with Field Turf, only whinners complain such nonsense about the turf, yall a Joke.

  5. eplnfl

    December 31, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    E very year I think forget the MLS playoffs go to a single table winner take all but then the playoffs role around and the teams fight for spots and you say to yourself wouldn’t a lot of European Leagues be better off with a playoff system. So, I for one will stay on the pro-playoff side of the issue and tell you that the Eurosnobs do not know what they are missing.

    • DCUDiplomat96

      January 2, 2010 at 12:31 am

      agreed Eurosnobs just dont understand how a true Champion is crown… they should understand at least this about MLS, that the last game of the season ia not game 30 its the MLS Cup.

  6. Ivan

    December 31, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Fantastic article on soccer365 against the single entity system and the MLS. Either the system goes or Garber goes. He has done well, but he is stuck in the past. Time for someone else to take the sport to the next level in the US. Say NO to the illegal single-entity MLS system: http://www.soccer365.com/mls/story_281209171120.php
    I am amazed that noone has stood up to Garber yet…

    • Charles

      January 2, 2010 at 12:10 pm

      Love Garber, he has created a league that is very balanced, competitive, relatively financial strong and exciting to watch every game.

      WAIT, it is the ANTI EPL ! Maybe that is why I love it so much….

  7. Robert

    December 31, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    its a fabricated top-flight league. Investors pay an expansion fee to enter into the top-flight unlike other leagues around the world that have to earn their way in by getting promoted. if you think you are watching top flight football Garber proves his case that american soccer fans are dolts.

    • Cavan

      December 31, 2009 at 7:39 pm

      oh, I get it. You don’t like it because it’s not just like England.

      Why is pro/rel such a big deal? I really don’t want to see my team lose its financial health due to a bad season. It makes no sense in the modern era. Pro/rel is a relic from a different time when the financial stakes were much lower and the concept of professional competition was much different.

      The EPL is hardly something to aspire to. One of its clubs, Portsmouth can’t even pay its players’ salaries. Teams are borrowing against potential future earnings to make ends meet now. Our league’s structure is the way it is because it was made from scratch in the modern era. It didn’t have years of evolution as a collection of amateur soccer clubs who decided to form a league and hold professional competition. It’s also designed to be fiscally sustainable. No borrowing against expected future revenues.

      Our leagues tend to be collectivist. Each team looks out for its own health and also the health of the whole league. In that respect the EPL could learn a few lessons.

  8. ryan

    December 31, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    wait…the green bay packers play on grass, and that’s your comparison? i mean that’s just plain stupid. you can play football on concrete and it’s still the same game. the surface doesn’t matter. but to compare an apple to an orange like that…it’s moronic.

    • Brian Zygo

      December 31, 2009 at 5:14 pm

      It’s called a heated field, the soil doesn’t freeze to tundra like conditions.

  9. Robert

    December 31, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    Plastic Grass, Conferences, Draft, Western Team Winning Eastern Playoffs, Salary Cap, Single Entity, SuperLiga, Penalty Kicks, Countdown Clock, Wizards, Earthquake, Galaxy, Red Bull, Fire.

    Why do people still care about MLS? Enough with the Gimmicks and horrible Club Names Garber we want SOCCER!

    • Cavan

      December 31, 2009 at 1:17 pm

      While I don’t like the Field Turf, I don’t think it’s a reason to ignore MLS, Robert.

    • ryan

      December 31, 2009 at 2:02 pm

      a huge list of dumb reason to not follow a sport. last time i checked, mls ditched the countdown clock a loooooooooong time ago.

      we care about mls because it’s out top flight league. don’t like it, move. we’re not asking you to stay or care.

  10. kevin_amold

    December 31, 2009 at 11:35 am

    When does the “Top 10 comments on majorleaguesoccertalk.com of the Decade” article come out?

    • The Gaffer

      December 31, 2009 at 1:04 pm

      Kevin, great idea. If you’re interested in compiling it, send it to me at thegaffer[at]epltalk[dot]com and I’ll publish it on the site with full credit to you.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • kevin_amold

        December 31, 2009 at 2:44 pm

        I’m just kidding. Seems like there’s a new Best/Worst/Ugliest/Dumbest _________ of the decade on every site I visit these days. I actually very much like this site.

  11. Joey Clams

    December 31, 2009 at 11:14 am

    The plastic is turning me off big time.

    Rather than having a single table, the league should set up a special division for Plascadia.

    • Lars

      December 31, 2009 at 4:24 pm

      There’s something I can agree with you on.

  12. Mickey T

    December 31, 2009 at 10:38 am

    Brian,
    I actually had some guy on MLS Rumors justify the use of plastic grass because of too much rain and the U of Portland is going to use PGE park and the high school playoffs will take place there. Somehow 8 to 10 amatuer football games would so damage the field that plastic grass is the only thing they could do. Yet in the wet climate of England they manage to use their pitches about 50 times a year with no game altering damage done. Since Garber has allowed Seattle and Portland to violate the leagues “absolute” moritorium on plastic fields why should we ever believe anything the commisioner says again.

    • Charles

      January 2, 2010 at 12:07 pm

      Well I wish that the team I coached was playing on turf the last few games of season in Seattle.
      Brutal who bad the great fields got by year end.

  13. Ivan

    December 31, 2009 at 8:02 am

    How about a single table? Come on, Garber, I heard what you said on Fox Football Fone-in a month ago, and it still didn’t make sense: bla-h, bla-h, distances, local rivalries, bla-h, bla-h. This past season I couldn’t figure out who’s in the playoffs and who isn’t.
    Also, the artificial turf is a terrible terrible idea; playing the MLS final in Seattle made it even worse(don’t get me wrong, great fans and atmosphere, but they either need to move out of Quest or get normal grass there for the MLS season).
    I am appalled by the decision of the US Soccer federation not to sanction NALS/USL. They did a great disservice to so many fans, especially in the Southeast. Now what???
    Also, Garber needs to step down. He has done well, but it’s time for someone else to take over the reigns of the league and take it to the next level. Time to get rid of the single entity system where MLS owns the players. This is ludicrous; I don’t care if that’s how NFL works. This is the real football and they should let the free market control the flow of players. MLS desperately needs a powerhouse(or 2) and it will never happen under the current system that forces parity (talk about socialism in otherwise a capitalist country).
    Just my 50 cents…

  14. Jason

    December 31, 2009 at 6:49 am

    Yeah a single table for MLS should be in order. The schedule is balanced anyway. They take seeds 1-8 for the playoffs. So simple guys. Gheesh. And do something to make the regular season champion more meaningful.

    • DCUDiplomat96

      January 2, 2010 at 12:34 am

      the regullar season is already meaningful its only less meaningful if you dont make the playoffs or Choke winning the Shield but not the Championship.

  15. FCU

    December 31, 2009 at 5:21 am

    Agree with all. My #1 might be the Charlie Davies car wreck – that was awful.

  16. Jay

    December 31, 2009 at 4:13 am

    How about no conferences, everyone plays each other home and away, and a single table champion…or am i asking too much?

    • DCUDiplomat96

      January 2, 2010 at 12:36 am

      well then MLS wouldnt be just like the EPL soccer teams playing for a imcomplete Championship(regular season) it would be very boring, and Playoffs are much better than what the european teams have organized.

  17. Butt Seriously

    December 31, 2009 at 12:09 am

    My favorite part of reading this article was that reading it in my google reader window, at the bottom comes up several ads for –field turf. Google totally got the point of what you were saying there.

  18. Porque

    December 30, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    Now if we can just fit pro/reg in there lol. You may say that I’m a dreamer…..

    • Charles

      January 2, 2010 at 12:05 pm

      Like anyone really wants to see their team relagated so they can bring up some team drawing 2,500 fans.
      Having Toronto on the verge of relegation, or how about Salt Lake, a couple of kicks away from relagation, OR a couple of kicks away from the MLS Championship.

      Relagation is for the loser leagues like EPL. So your annual 10th place finish seems kind of cool.

  19. Porque

    December 30, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    My solutuion for the east/west champion thing is that they crown each conference champion to the team with the most points at the end of the regular season. Makes sense and simple. They compete in a point structure within each conf. Just like they do now. Then you have the regular playoffs for the cup. See? Are you taking notes mls?

    • f4denz

      January 2, 2010 at 2:25 pm

      So you would have had MLS leave out Real Salt Lake and let in DC United in the East, and thus have robbed the team that won the MLS Cup of even having a shot?

      I do think the moving of teams into conference areas during the playoffs is kinda silly, but I say you take the top 8 teams and seed them and let them play it out. Had that happened it would have still likely ended up with RSL beating LA in the finals. East and Western Conferences have no real meaning since everyone will play each other twice this year, but if you are going to have playoffs then the 8 best teams should make it no matter what geographic region they are from.

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