Unbalanced schedule makes sense - unbalanced fans and coaches do not

"Hold the happiness. We are in trouble. We forgot one little detail." "Nothing is missing.  Everything is here, down to the last hitching post."

"People!  There are no people!"

....They promised to be permanent champions.  They have never been to any tournament final.  They have never been past the first round of the playoffs.

....Their entire coaching staff used to play for their arch-rival.  Except for their goalkeeper coach, whose link on the team's Wikipedia page directs to that of a serial killer with the same name.

....Their second-ever designated player is being paid mainly by their arch-rival.  Their first-ever designated player still has his image on a banner outside the corner of the stadium.  He played four games for them.

....They considered moving to Pomona, to be closer to their fans.

....They are rumored to move from a soccer-specific stadium to a college football stadium that holds nearly 100,000 people.  Afterwards, they plan to build yet another soccer-specific stadium.

....Alejandro Moreno is tied for the team lead in both goals and assists.  Tied with the entire roster.  With zero.

....They long for the good old days when Preki was their coach.


I don't often watch Chivas USA.  And neither does anyone else.


Tired, played-out, irrelevant, not worth the trouble?  No, not Most Interesting Man jokes.  I mean, yes, Most Interesting Man jokes, but also the Supporters Shield - to hear some tell it.

I'm trying to steal fewer pictures, so check out the crowd shot from Mike Russell on this page.  Those are Seattle fans - best fans in the world, depending on what week Don Garber's saying so - and their banner says "Footy: 1 Home, 1 Away," or something like that.  They lost me at "Footy."  Because you're making a hundred foot banner, that extra letter you save by not using "soccer" makes a huge difference!

Maybe it's just me, but I've always found Argumentum Ad Vexillum particularly unpersuasive.  Just because someone's willing to spend the money to sloganize an issue doesn't mean it's adding to the conversation.  If you don't believe me - well, this is an election year, so check back in a few months.

Then again, "So You Don't Get Dicked On Travel" would also fit on a banner, so maybe the Powers That Are should whip one up and send it over.  It's not like these issues weren't beaten to death back when the unbalanced schedule was first announced.   Don't confuse this with Argumentum Ad Everyone Else, but every major North (of the Rio Grande) American sports league has had to choose between lower travel costs, more rivalry games, and easier scheduling versus...what?  Aesthetic symmetry?  "Fairness"?

You know how made the point that increased travel lowers quality of play?  The Pacific Northwest teams.  A "balanced" schedule isn't fair to them.  Teams bunched around the I-95 corridor don't have the same travel issues.

So it's admirable that Seattle fans are advocating a policy that would hurt their own team's chances, but it's a pretty weak reason for martyrdom.  That banner died in vain.  I can't imagine any coach in the West wanting to add travel to the burdens of...oh, look, it's Jason Kreis.  Wonder what he wants.

"To be very honest, it has lost all appeal to me.  It was something last year that I was all gung-ho for, something I had not done before and something I really wanted to tuck into my belt and say that I had accomplished. But to be frank, I think it doesn’t make any sense now. When you have an unbalanced schedule and are playing opposing teams an unbalanced number of times, a different number of times home and away, it doesn’t make any sense. And I think it’s something the league needs to review and needs to get rid of."

Well, Kreis is a league employee, sure, but I don't think you'd find anyone else connected with MLS who would go so far as to say the Supporters Shield was dead - hm?

In the discussion that followed among the podcast hosts, Simon Borg declared, “The Shield is dead.”

Where to begin.

Well, first I take this gun out of my mouth.  I have so much to live for, like the Galaxy winning the CONCACAF Champions League.

Second - dudes, the Shield ain't yours to kill.  Settingthetable answered this rather sharply:

Then tell the supporters, who long ago put their own cash and passion into not only creating the award and eventually convinced MLS brass to embrace it and even use it to award qualification in continental championships, that is has no meaning just because we’ve gone back to unbalanced schedules.

From the very beginning - literally before there was a tangible Shield - it was an award of appreciation.  The Shield still means that week in and week out that team put on the best performances, won the most games and gave their fans the most to cheer about.  So what if it doesn't represent the Balanced Schedule Champions anymore?

It's amazing that so much of our fanbase, let alone people with a financial stake in the game, are still under the impression that people tune in, or go to games, to watch a schedule or a business model.  Nobody goes to Manchester United games because they're proud of how Queen's Park Rangers and Stoke City play home and away.  There's nothing sacred about a balanced schedule anyway - I don't pretend to understand how Mexico and Scotland do it, but "balanced" isn't necessarily the word I would use for their systems.

And yet MLS fans are howling for a system that would bring no tangible benefits and hurt quality of play.  Of all the hills to die on, this is very nearly the silliest.

As far as the Shield's usefulness - look, I hate to contradict Coach Kreis, because he's going to have a huge say in American soccer for probably decades to come, on top of what he's already accomplished.  I'm not going to dismiss what he has to say out of hand.

Instead, I'll listen carefully, then dismiss it.  I'm right and he's wrong.  The Supporters Shield still has the CONCACAF Champions League ticket.  That means, say, if a team has a fantastic season, but flops in the first round of the playoffs - used to happen all the time - they don't have to sit at home and watch some bunch of clods lose to freaking Toronto at home.  Ha ha, FC Dallas!  Wait.

The unbalanced Shield still has that CONCACAF entry.  We can talk about how important the CONCACAF tournament really is - I think it usually gets overstated right until MLS teams are bounced from it - but just because we all memory-holed MLS4RSL doesn't mean that a future team won't get the job done.  (Maybe Toronto.  Ha ha!  I have to laugh because I'm too old to cry.)

But what really grinds my gears is that this is the year that the Shield has the biggest tangible reward in its glorious history.  Did Jason Kreis miss the announcement that best record hosts MLS Cup?  The Supporters Shield - that dead, senseless award the league should get rid of - now comes with home field advantage.  That's a nearly 70% chance of victory, according to that Sports Illustrated home field advantage study.  Seventy freaking percent.  Jason Kreis doesn't see the point of trying to get a 70% chance of winning MLS Cup.

Sure, the Shield doesn't automatically get you to MLS Cup.  That would be a real advantage, and one that helped make WPS the most successful sports league in the history of sarcastic irony.  And sure, it's possible that a good team in a weak conference might end up with home field in MLS Cup against a great team from a strong conference.  I don't know what would the league would do if that ever happened, but if I stare long enough at a decade-old picture of Carlos Ruiz and Cobi Jones holding a weird-shaped trophy, I might have some insight.

The last time I blasted Kreis for complaining, he took the defending league champions to their own woodshed, so maybe he's onto something psychologically - even though, just like last time, he's factually way the hell off.  Maybe Kreis is trying to who-cares his way to the Shield...and all that it brings.

Or maybe Kreis is just the Eric Wynalda of coaches.  Until such time as Eric Wynalda becomes the Eric Wynalda of coaches, it'll have to do.

(Also, you know the comment format you all hated?  Turns out, like Dorothy, I had the power to change it all along, at least for my own blog.  Comments are now in chronological order, the way God intended.  It's, uh, made holy hash of comments in the past, though, if you're trying to follow historic discussions.  But from here on in, it should look more familiar to you guys.)

(Slight edit made.  I proofread after the fact.  Oh, you noticed.)