Major League Soccer owners refused for years to listen to fans and media, the majority of whom didn’t support the overly combative way domestic, professional soccer at its highest level was beaten into submission. There was too much brute force and aggression, too little technical skill and tactical problem solving.
The balance was way out of whack, and yet owners (and therefore Major League Soccer’s top levels) looked the other way, preferring to aim energy and effort elsewhere. This year has brought added emphasis to solving the referee problem, but the league’s top levels, along with U.S. Soccer, still have not done enough to address the overall temperament and overly physical style.
Just last week, none other than esteemed Italian defensive giant Alessandro Nesta, now with Montreal, said too many of the league’s strikers play “like animals.”
Well, perhaps the powers will believe their own players.
All credit to San Jose, a team that has talent, a respected coach and lots of momentum going into the 2012 playoffs – but one that gets a lot out of Major League Soccer’s continued leniency in the way matches are officiated.
Simply put, games with San Jose go hand-in-hand with lots of collisions, off-the-ball antics and dangerously reckless play. Don’t believe me? Listen to Omar Gonzalez, the 2011 Defender of the Year and a huge piece of the Galaxy’s success over the back half of 2012:
To be honest, this game wasn’t even fun. I think those guys are a bunch of jokes, the way they play the game. It was just obnoxious. And, you know, it wasn’t even fun out there. It was terrible.”
Preach it, brother! Gonzalez and fellow Galaxy center back Tommy Meyer were the latest unlucky fellows tasked to deal with Earthquakes striker Steven Lenhart, surely the most maddening player in MLS. Gonzalez goes on …
It all starts when the ball’s on the other side of the field, and you’re just running and all of a sudden you get blindsided. You just get checked by Lenhart or something. It’s just dumb [expletive] like that happens every time, and that’s not the way the game should be played. It’s embarrassing.”
I’ve said this before … and it’s important. I don’t totally blame the Earthquakes. Players and coaches are paid to win games. That’s the bottom line, and they have some obligation to do whatever is in their power to accomplish that primary mission. To that end, you can make a case that San Jose is simply better than other clubs at exploiting the league’s soft spot in enforcement.
On the other hand, I do blame Lenhart. Watching him foul on pretty much every sequence is maddening. That guy is ridiculous.