The New MLS: If You Can't Beat 'em, Beat 'em

Many times when I'm watching an MLS match I think about how it's possible, maybe even likely, that for somebody somewhere that game is their first exposure to MLS, and I spend a few moments trying to see the game through the eyes of one of those "I love soccer but hate MLS" guys who may be sitting at home in front of his TV, giving MLS a try for the first time.

Which is why last night, about halfway through the Chicago Fire - Chivas USA match I was praying for a national power outage.

Maybe it's just that I've been on a non-stop Euro 2008 viewing marathon, which is an entirely unfair comparison. There isn't a league in the world that can even come close to delivering that brand of soccer on anything like a regular basis, and to use, say Portugal as a yardstick by which to judge Chivas USA is unfair if not ludicrous.

But the bottom line is that, whatever your personal standards, including a regular immersion in the local U-11 sandbox league, that was an atrocious, unwatchable abortion of a match.

And it wasn't entirely the fault of the indecipherable officiating standards of mentally impaired referee Baldomero Toledo, who hopefully was able to find his dog and white cane after the game, although that certainly contributed.

The guy called 30 or so fouls, should have called 60 and probably could have called 100.

And that's aside from the shockingly brutal assault veteran MLS hack C.J. Brown laid on Sasha Kjlestan which should have drawn straight red and an additional two game suspension and yet, despite happening right in front of "Tin Cup" Toledo didn't even get a whistle.

Maybe instead of bothering with soccer they should have had Brown and Jesse "Hack'N Slash" Marsch, an equally disgraceful thug, meet in the parking lot. I'd pay to see that myself, although hoping to see both of them taken away in ambulances would probably be too much to ask.

None of which is to suggest that this game was in any way unique to MLS this season. The skill players in this league are getting killed out there as Major League Soccer seems determined to allow this cynical, thuggish, skill-free brand of soccer to become more and more the norm.

Can't defend against a Blanco or a Schelotto or a Gallardo or a Morales? No problem, just knock the crap out of him 10 or 15 times a game. He can't hurt you if he's on his ass.

Some of them will get called, most will be ignored and if you complain you'll be called a "diver" and get a caution for dissent as Blanco did last night which, coming as it did about 60 seconds after the Brown/Kjlestan assault only emphasized how absurd it's becoming.

Of course it's not a coincidence that this Thug-A-Thon happened at the HDC: three out of the top four foul committers in MLS play for Chivas. One of them (Nagamura) actually got two yellows and a sendoff before halftime but that didn't change much of anything.

Maybe it's just me but MLS needs to get a handle on the current descent into skill-free hackery before the league becomes a sort of Roller Derby-style freak show.

And if the goal is to impress the doubters that MLS really does play high-caliber, "quality" soccer, then they have long, long ways to go.