Apparently, with two posts in two days, I’ve lain the seeds for a soccer week here on joebush.net, but I’ve only got like four soccer topics in me before I crytype out a 3000 word rant about how we, as a country, should appreciate Jozy Altidore more.
I watched the MLS All-Star Game last year on a YouTube stream, and I do not remember a single thing about it other than the fact that I would’ve bought one of those jerseys if I could’ve put Ignacio Piatti’s name and number on the back (I couldn’t). The same goes for this year, except it’d be Dax McCarty’s name, because as an everyman with a bad haircut, I identify with him.
I’ve gone down this year’s roster, and I don’t agree with a lot of the guys picked. Obviously, I have a bias towards my preferred club in Kansas City, but they’ve been very good this year, and the guy that we got in was not the guy I would’ve picked for the honor were I given the decision. (and as someone with the influence that I have, I should’ve been given the decision).
I know why this is the way that this is. I remember when Frank Lampard and Stephen Gerrard both made MLS All-Star teams before their mediocre MLS careers even had begun. I remember when the All-Stars got smashed by Roma in 2013 and were criticized for not playing hard enough, then beat Bayern Munchen in 2014 and were criticized for going too hard. It’s a paradoxical sort of meaningless ticket-selling exhibition where high-level competition is expected. It’s an All-Star game.
The whole American concept of the All-Star game is bizarre, and it’s constantly criticized. The All-Star game that features a league’s best players come to play an exhibition game. Certain people expect a highly competitive game because it features a league’s best players, and certain people expect a relaxed game because they’ve come to play an exhibition game.
With the MLS All-Star game’s current iteration, a historically successful team from one of the leagues that Major League Soccer is criticized for not being enough like is brought in to challenge the All-Star team. Perhaps that is something to play for, but there has to be a question of whether or not that sense of pride in the league is actually valuable outside of internet comment sections or if that sense of pride in the league is actually measurable via one exhibition game against another club in the middle of an offseason. Last year, there at least appeared to be more Arsenal fans at Avaya Stadium than there were fans of the non-specific Major League Soccer conglomerate. I think that’s to be expected, but I have to think that’s a little embarassing for MLS.
If you are a Real Madrid fan, or from Madrid, or, like, Gareth Bale’s kid or something, I completely understand buying a ticket to see your club live, even if it is just an exhibition. I’m only associated with one club from across the sea, and that is whichever one had Sonic the Hedgehog on their jerseys in the 1990s, so I can’t quite relate, but if I were living in France and someone was like, “Mon ami, tu veux regarder les Kansas City Royals ce weekend?” I’d say “oui, même s’ils mettent Paulo Orlando sur le liste et Alex Gordon s’asseoit sur l’herbe pour tout le match” or something like that.
But anyway, here are the things that I would do to fix the match
Go back to an East-West matchup
We used to do this, and we got matches with ridiculously high scorelines, not unlike the NBA All-Star game. The 2000 All-Star game, which ended with the East winning by a score of 9-4, is available in full on YouTube, and at the moment, more people were in attendance at the game itself than have viewed it for free online. It features plays like this from Chicago legend Piotr Nowak.
But if it’s a meaningless exhibition, at least let it be a ridiculous, high scoring, no defense, but ultimately entertaining meaningless exhibition.
Do American Players versus International players again
Or, I guess now, it’d be American/Canadian versus World. The last time that they did this, it was in 1998, and the Americans won by five goals. I don’t know if it’ll actually be more entertaining, but if there’s an issue with the somewhat arbitrary conference system, this is a quick solution. National pride might not be anything that drives anything because we’d have American players playing at least partially for Canada and vice versa, but, still, there’s something there. The NBA does that with the Rising Stars challenge now, and it works, so perhaps MLS could learn something from the NBA.
Just Do Some Sort of Soccer Version of the Slam Dunk Contest/Home Run Derby
Penalty kick shootout? Chips from midfield contest? Just set up some of the loading screen games from FIFA, like the cardboard boxes in the goal and you have to kick them down or something? There isn’t much on the periphery of soccer that can be entertaining on its own like the NBA and MLB have, so this might be tough.
I recommend making an entire contest out of the old late ’90s NHL-Style Shootout. I know we’re not necessarily proud of it, but it’s unique to MLS, dammit, and we should at least nod to it somehow.
Have All of the Players With Long-Standing Beef Wrestle it Out
Now, I’m not saying that fighting should be encouraged, but there’s gotta be some pent up aggression, and if MLS can team up with WWF to sell this event, I think we could have something. At least give Kei Kamara a microphone and let him say whatever he wants to the entirety of the Columbus Crew.
I don’t know anything for certain in this context, and I will undoubtedly still watch the game. I think that we should keep the All-Star game, because there really should be a celebration of the best players, and at the very least it’s nice for young talented guys to interact with great veterans from other clubs. I like having an All-Star game, but it’s never going to be as good as anyone wants it to be, and I need to accept that and just enjoy the spectacle.