Away the goals

Now that my team has benefited, I realize that away goals are, in fact, God's intended tiebreaker.

What?  I told you so, didn't I?  In fact, what did I say when MLS doubled-down on the two-leg series in the conference brackets?  No, seriously, I forget.  I guess I could look it up. 

But I'm pretty sure it was something like "While the two-leg system stinks for first-place Sounders, it's very very good indeed for second- and third-place Sounders, and so in the long run a guaranteed home playoff game for third place and above is going to be more profitable for Seattle.  And since Seattle right now is the team that is pulling in 30 large during the regular season and more during the playoffs, I imagine their opinion carries some heft."

It's possible, during this offseason, now that Portland and Seattle have been drop-kicked out of the playoffs after winning the division in successive years, that the Cascadia teams will have a change of heart. 

It's also possible, now that Seattle has been both victor and victim thanks to away goals, that we'll see a change on that front, too. 

But at this point, I doubt it.  There's this pervasive idea that Major League Soccer makes decisions just for the hell of it, just to be different from Europe, just to be more like "American" sports.  There seems to be an equally pervasive belief that men and women who make their living and feed their families based on the results of the decisions they make on these kind of topic put less, rather than a LOT more, thought into said topics than you or I do.

The away goals tiebreaker cuts down on the likelihood of overtime and penalty kicks.  I like overtime, and hate penalty kicks, so I can sort of see the reasoning.  But my kids won't go from Princeton to Western Beauty School if I'm wrong about why one system is better. 

Now, come the further media revolution, where we all get our sports content through Google or Netflix or Bing or Netscape, our leagues will no longer have to bastardize their formats to fit into television chunks divisible by the half hour.  Hail the glorious day, which is not, however, today.  Television never stops, not even for Cup finals. 

(Look at it this way - about the only thing that can reliably get away with busting its allotted time format is the Academy Awards telecast.  And even THAT gets pushback from local affiliates, whose newscasts are routinely buggered up for the evening...even as they benefit from the ratings spillover.  If Oscar(TM) can't quiet a station manager in Wheeling, MLS has no chance.)

So MLS is, for the sake of maximizing revenue, both artificially extending the playoffs on the weekly scale, and artificially limiting the games on the hourly scale.  We're not going to get the system we like, whatever that system is, or whoever we are.  If only every team were as considerate as New England, and can be bothered to win in regulation.

Peter Welpton argues that MLS is silly to throw away an extra half hour of exposure on nationwide sports cable and gripping penalty kick shootout highlights on SportsCenter, but I'm not sure we're missing that much.  As Stan Lee said about happy and unhappy families, one penalty kick is pretty much like another, but every miss is different.  The Galaxy may have advanced on a stupid, arcane, irritating rule that creates more problems than it solves, but at least Juninho's goal was pretty.

I've actually warmed up considerably to the Mexican system because of how this year has shaken out.  Tie goes to the high seed is one heck of a way to make sure you don't get overtime and penalty kicks - but it does tilt the table a bit.  Giving a team a half-goal lead changes the dynamic. 

Look at what away goals did.  Adrian Healey did a fantastic job in tracking the ongoing chess match between Schmid and Arena this past couple of weeks.  And it was great.  The mental and physical matchups of that series were engrossing.  One of the most exciting series I can remember.  Last year, the "strategy" would have been, you know, score more than those other derps.

"And keep track of cards."  Yes, thank you, Mike.

But...the game is basically score more than those other derps.  One goal shouldn't really be worth more than another - that seems to offend our sense of rightness.  We might as well put in a two-goal line, or award style points, or award half-points for penalties.  A simple game should be simple.  All goals are beautiful. 

I'm sure if we did put in the Mexican system, that same year we would see a higher seed advance on a penalty so dodgy even Carlos Ruiz would hesitate to take advantage of it.  Still, if we're not going to have one-legged playoffs, might as well use a system that is both proven and popular.

Or we can get a committee to pick the finalists.  Seems to be working great for college football.

Speaking of Pescadito - so, who will win next Sunday?  Hm, the Galaxy have won three previous MLS Cups by a score of 1-0, including two 1-0 victories over New England.  Can I get back to you with my prediction?  I want some time to think about it.