Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Tuesday Morning Odds and Sods, Volume 7

Initiatives, and their radical cousins, Mission Statements and Manifestos, are usually a bunch of bunk guys in suits toss out in a futile attempt to convince the masses/plebes that they "feel your pain" and "share your passion." But you gotta hand it to MLS this time, the "Game First" changes released yesterday are pretty darn good.

Here's a quick breakdown:

Hat Tricks:
The Game Presentation fixes are spot on, like an Ante Razov PK. For too long, players have taken the field in a haphazard manner, three or four guys now, one later, here comes another three guys. Oh, wait, there's some guys from the other team. No more. Coming out single file, next to the opposition and behind the ref sets the a proper, respectful tone for task at hand, a hard-fought professional soccer match that fans paid good money to watch.

Until we've actually heard it, we'll reserve judgement on the anthem recorded in the Czech Republic for some reason (perhaps Patrik Berger's sister plays violin and they figured, hey, any little edge in getting Patty over here, let's try it). Speaking of hearing, cutting back on the PA announcements is as brilliant as the shine off Matt Reis's bald head. PA intrusions are an ugly, ever-expanding blot on the American Sports landscape and it's terrific that MLS is bucking the trend in order to provide an improved atmosphere in their stadia.

The Designated Player Rule is a no-brainer. David Beckham and Claudio Reyna are very good professional soccer players who are now (or will be very soon) playing in Major League Soccer. 'Nuff said. The Youth Development and Transfer Fee advancements are also moves in the right direction. Clubs who locate and nurture local talent should get first dibs on signing the player and get the lion's share of any financial windfall should he end up transferring to Europe.

The SuperLiga structure looks good, and the MLS Cup Champ and the Supporters Shield Winner gaining entry to the CONCACAF Champions Cup is another strong idea. This way, should a hot team streak through the MLS playoffs, there is still some cover provided by rewarding the winningest team during the regular season. The new MLS playoff setup is another solid idea, where the best teams make the playoffs, not the fourth best team in a crap conference.

As far as the Officiating changes go, we're down with yellows for diving and for the petty, unsportsmanlike wave an imaginary card to try and get the ref to show a real one nonsense.

Yellow Card Cautions:
The South American consultant is OK, we guess, but will any efforts be made to import the great things about South American soccer, the skill, creativity, vision and passion, while avoiding some of the unsavory aspects, like diving, surrounding the ref and screaming at him, and time-wasting?

Increased access to locker rooms and sideline interviews for national broadcast partners is a good idea on paper. Unless it means more forced, "controversial" bon mots and rants from Eric Wynalda, a bright well-spoken guy who desperately needs a TV producer with the stones to say, "Um...don't do that," every now and then. Despite what the suits in Bristol think, MLS doesn't need a huckster Dick Vitale-type or a snarky, so-hip-he-can-hula Stuart Scott wannabe. If, on the other hand, the improved access results in someone like Julie Foudy doing her thing, which is asking pertinent, insightful questions about the game, or some pre-determined featurish spot, then it's all good.

Which leaves us with Strategic Relationships, and full disclosure here, we're extremely suspicious about this stuff. Until we hear actual concrete reasons and goals for these partnerships, as opposed to lame spin and dubious Office Space-like corporate jargon about how "to glean the best applicable practices" and "maximize connectivity to the global soccer marketplace" our default position is they're really just blowin' smoke up our nether-regions and embarking on some scheme we'd all really hate. Other than that, I guess it's OK.

  • Speaking of Wynalda, one of his old Team USA compatriots, Tony Meola, got a few things off his chest via Big Apple Soccer. Tony discussed his Red Bull exit, dished on front office intrigue and shared his views on retirement. His comments on how LA handled Cobi Jones' swansong, as opposed to the breakups between the MetroStars-Red Bull and Tab Ramos and Meola himself hit home. In time, the Red Bull would do well to reach out to both ex-players as the organization could certainly benefit from their wealth of experience in American soccer.

  • Click here for MLSnet.com's Red Bull 2007 preview. And click here for another excellent SI.com photo gallery.

  • PS. We know it's late, but it's gotta be morning somewhere.

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