After a week of international soccer and a hiatus from the MLS Cup Playoffs, I think I have finally recovered from last week’s loss to Seattle. If I learned anything from losing growing up, it was to shake your opponent’s hand when you are beaten and try harder the next time.
But beaten is a loose term when it comes to FCD’s situation. Yes, Seattle is moving on to face the LA Galaxy in the Western Conference Finals. BUT, did Seattle beat FC Dallas? No. Did FC Dallas lose? No, but technically, yes.
Don’t worry. This isn’t going to be a bitter account from a disgruntled fan about how unfair the away goals rule is and how Dallas deserves to be in the finals ahead of Seattle…but I do have some thoughts.
The second leg between Seattle and FCD was the perfect first instance of the away goals rule in effect in the MLS. Tied 1-1 going into the game, all Seattle had to do was keep Dallas out of the net to advance to the next round. They didn’t have to score. They didn’t have to do anything, just defend.
Now, Seattle didn’t form a human wall. They didn’t “park the bus”, a la Jose Mourinho. They played a defensive-minded game and looked to break at speed. Seattle honestly didn’t look too different from their normal selves, just a bit more defensive.
As the final whistle sounded, the score remained 0-0, which meant Seattle was advancing with its one away goal. Despite pulling out a brilliant result (holding Seattle goalless at home), FC Dallas was sent home.
Okay, here’s my issue.
If you were to ask me at the beginning of the season, “What is a better result for FC Dallas, drawing 1-1 to Seattle in Frisco or drawing 0-0 to Seattle on the road?”, I would have unequivocally said that the result in Seattle is better.
Holding the Sounders goalless in Seattle and earning a point there is much more valuable than settling for that single point at home. I’m guessing that any Seattle fan would say the same thing if the roles were reversed.
So, in my eyes, Dallas is left having to lament a result that would have been welcomed, maybe celebrated, during the season.
I understand the MLS’ logic behind the rule, I really do. Every relevant soccer league across the world uses the away goals rule in its competitions. It’s based on the fact that it is more difficult to score goals away from home, and teams should be rewarded for doing so.
But in my mind, FC Dallas played a much better game and got a more favorable result in the 0-0 second leg. They kept the best team in the league from scoring on their home turf and created several chances that could have seen them win the game outright.
I have a problem accepting the away goals rule when I feel as if I’m having to change my idea of what constitutes a good result in a game. But at the same time, I do like the MLS’ attempt to become more relevant in the global game.
Nov 10, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Sounders FC mid fielder Michael Azira (42) slide tackles FC Dallas forward Andres Escobar (91) during the second half at CenturyLink Field. The game was a 0-0 draw. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
It’s just a tough pill to swallow. On the one hand, I am very pleased with Oscar Pareja and the performance that the team displayed. On the other, I am left to wonder why a result that is favorable in the middle of the season should be seen as a shame in the playoffs. The explanation: MLS is trying to go global.
However, the playoffs themselves are a very American spin on soccer. Nowhere in the world of soccer is there a playoff at the end of a league season. Sure, there are tournaments that work like playoffs, but no domestic league feels the need to also have a playoff at the end of a season.
This is why Deandre Yedlin was quoted as saying the Supporters’ Shield is “more important” than the playoffs. His words, not mine.
So, if you are trying to make the sport more marketable to the American people by creating playoffs, why institute a rule that isn’t used in any other sports league in the US? Could you imagine if the World Series ended in the 9th inning of Game 7 with a tie and the team that won more games on the road advanced?? Mutiny!
There is so much more to this discussion: MLS’ position in the global game, Americans’ views of MLS/soccer in general, the meaning of life. It could go on forever.
Despite the result, I am proud of FC Dallas. So many players put in great performances this year. Chris Seitz played lights out in the second leg, Matt Hedges continues to show why he is national team material (hint hint, Jurgen), and Akindele and Mauro Diaz bring youthful talent that has this fan excited for the future.
It might still sting me for a while, but I can accept Seattle’s “win”. Maybe I can come back in a few months and see it from a more objective viewpoint. But then again, I’m still a sports fan. Isn’t that an oxymoron, the objective sports fan?