Thursday, September 15, 2011

Shotgunning Thursday's Top News

All the news that’s fit to drink.

And because you’d rather have a beer than be reading all the time… we’ve taken the day’s top news and given it the Reader’s Digest-treatment so you can get to that post-work pint quicker.

* JOOOOOLAZO! Altidore scores his 6th in seven games for his new Dutch club. Just three off his all-time, single season tally and ties the total amount he’s scored in Europe in the last three seasons.

* For Major League Soccer the sun rises in the West. Match Fit USA’s Jason Davis, writing for US Soccer Players, talks about the Western Conference’s current domination in the league. But just a few years back it was the East calling on the shots. Just all apart of MLS’ continuing parity see-saw.
“Several Western Conference teams have figured out recipes for success – something that has nothing to do with their conference affiliation – while Eastern teams have fallen behind in the ever-changing MLS environment. It’s luck of the draw, a natural ebb and flow, and purely coincidental. MLS isn’t immune to that odd phenomena seen in other pros sports, where a league goes through phases of one league/division/conference having dominance over the other.
Three years isn’t a very long time at all. Not much changes in three years. The order of things, in the macro sense, doesn’t typically over such a short period. In terms of soccer – certainly in most places – the possibility for sweeping change is essentially nonexistent. Europe’s leading leagues do not turn over the top teams in three year, and there’s never a geographic component. New challengers might pop up through investment or good management, but a decided lack of parity makes it nearly impossible for an entirely different group of teams to become the top echelon.”

* With the huge imbalance currently in the league, Sports Illustrated’s head soccer writer Grant Wahl says the playoff system is broken (even though it was just re-vamped for the 2011 season). Wahl spelled out a solution that was originally forwarded by
The Sporting News’ Brian Straus to makes MLS’ playoffs work again (if they ever did).

“What’s the solution? I’m not one of the people who think MLS should drop the playoffs and go with a single table like most European leagues. Playoffs are more exciting, and playoffs done the right way are a rewarding way to crown a deserving champion, as we’ve seen in so many other U.S. sports.
But there’s a much better playoff structure MLS could use, one that could start as soon as next year and remain in place permanently, no matter how many teams MLS adds to the league in the future. The idea (first proposed by Brian Straus, now of The Sporting News) is this: two World Cup-style four-team groups followed by a four-team bracket with league semifinals and a one-game MLS Cup final.
Here’s how it would work. You’d keep the Eastern and Western Conferences. As I’ll explain below in my idea for how to schedule a 20-team league, a regular-season schedule weighted with in-conference games would limit the cross-country travel that I think is a problem in the current setup. If MLS wants to hand trophies to the conference winners, then it can do so based on the regular season. Then the playoffs can start.”
* Staying with our MLS theme “The Shin Guardian” gets it’s first guest contribution from “The Blizzard” a UK-based quarterly magazine. Their subject? The brutal nature of our domestic game and the affect on the development of quality of play in the United States.
“MLS’ reputation as a physical league is well deserved: players are superb athletes, capable of maintaining a high level of play throughout a long season; they have to put up with countless hours of travel, crisscrossing time zones and enduring the kaleidoscopic climate variability of North America, but the implication of the negative insinuations of the word is to simplify the problem these injuries should be used to highlight. It would be folly to blame random chance for such a catalogue of injuries. Luck has played its part, but there is also an array of background factors, some easily reconcilable and some that require longer-term treatment. Injury is inevitable in all sport, but for its own development, MLS must create an environment in which the best players do not live in fear.”
* Sporting KC’s CJ Sapong tried his damnedest to win the heart of USMNT goalkeeper Hope Solo during training before tomorrow night’s match at LIVESTRONG Park in Kansas City. As Dirty Tackle put it, And that’s how C.J. Sapong won Thursday, September 15.”

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