"The Times, They Ain't a Changin"

The highly recommended, always excellentCLIMBING THE LADDER BLOG has an in depth and very interesting "halfway through the MLS season offensive and defensive statistics review" deal that's worth your time.

(Halfway as in "106 0f 210 scheduled games - I'm ashamed to admit that I hadn't noticed)

Another interesting observation comes from the legendary "Sirk" (rhymes with Dirk - I'm just saying) who discusses THE "MLS REGULAR SEASON DOESN'T MATTER theory and finds it wanting.

Many, if not most of us have observed from time to time that since most teams make the playoffs and thus have a shot at the Cup, that the regular season is relatively meaningless.

Sirk, however, observes that 22 of the 24 MLS Cup finalists have finished either first or second in the regular season.

Winning may not give you anything specific, but it appears to be a pretty solid indicator of likely success.

While the season began with a great deal of fanfare about the influx of boatloads of Argentine players, it's been the play of a few young Africans (Mansally and Nyassi at New England, Ekpo in Columbus, etc.) that has opened the most eyes.

As I observed earlier this year, Africa presents a special set of problems to MLS teams: the distances involved and the competition from European clubs prominent among them.

But as we've seen this year, the upside is tremendous, and AS THIS ARTICLE FROM BOSTON.COM points out, MLS sides are beginning to establish ties and contacts aimed at opening up the pipeline a bit more.

The players themselves present a special challenge to American coaches, since the relative paucity of quality coaching sometimes means you're going to have to pick guys based as much on raw talent as on demonstrated skill.

But the finished product, be it from South America, Africa or anywhere else, is usually way out of our price range, and young kids in need of solid work and experience work much cheaper.

In any case, all too often young African kids are exploited by ruthless agents who promise the moon and leave them high and dry when it turns out the big Euro clubs aren't going to shell out huge dollars.

How much better would it be for everyone if we were to bring these kids over here, let them work on their game for a couple of years in a lower key, lower pressure atmosphere and then take a whack at Europe? It's nothing but winners all around.

We've all seen the reports that claim David Beckham's MLS contract gives him the option to purchase a league team when his playing career concludes.

Most speculation has centered around a New York City expansion team (the long awaited "second team" so near and dear to Don Garber's heart) but THIS PIECE FROM THE MIRROR claims that Bckham and partner Simon Fuller (and how rich must this guy be by now?) want to set up shop in Miami.

To me it's a no-brainer. A strong entry that's marketed correctly could go over very big down there, where the cheapskate Victor Whoreowitz stabbed the fans in the back.

I'd bet they'll be more than willing to forgive and forget. And coupled with the rumored Arthur Blank bid in Atlanta, that could finally round out the sea-to-shining-sea team distribution that MLS has sorely lacked.

kyle McCarthy at Goal.com has some germane comments on the state of things at NYRB, and NOT SURPRISINGLY IT AIN'T PRETTY.

In the spirit of Climbing the Ladder (see above) I'll admit that RedBulls were my apparently ridiculous pick to win the east, but nobody could have foreseen the kind of ineptitude that was on display in their 4th of July beatdown at the hands of a typically mediocre Rapids team.

Of course any team that actually starts Chris Leitch - a guy who, were he not left-footed, would have been out of the league five years ago - either has a death wish or just can't recognize talent.