Game #8…@ Montreal

A win!

A 1-2 win at the Montreal Impact is always a sweet, delicious feeling.

Robinson made yet another change to the team: we had the same setup!

A sarcastic comment, yes, but having  a consistent line up is inconsistent for Robinson.  We had the same line up as we did against the Timbers so a sense of stability is expected, which was very apparent in the tactical evolution of the game.

We again had the more defensive midfielders in the centre of the field: Laba, Jacobsen, and Tchani.  All of them provided that solidity allowing the team’s confidence to flourish throughout the game.  Indeed that, however, needed the whole 90 minutes to develop; the opening Montreal goal completely tarnished any sense of defensive credibility propounded by these three players.  The goal was as if in slow motion; it developed from down the left wing and was worked into the centre of the field.

The team did not recognise any movement of Montreal’s.  Harvey was beat down the wing again, and the two centre backs, Waston and Parker, both fell in towards the gaping hole left by Harvey.  As the ball is worked out to their right, both Laba and Tchani ball watch.  There was no sense of danger given at all to the centre of the field.  And so, as the ball peters out Marco Donadel is left with no choice but to shoot.

Normally I would give Robinson hell for setting up the team to be overly dependent on some aspect that allows for these spatial gaps to appear on the field.  But this goal was a complete player’s mess.  We were caught ball watching on two major moments that created so much room in the centre.  This is a typical aspect to the typical MLS player: there is little understanding of the game outside of the immediate threat presented by the player with the ball.

The great defender and champion of the MLS, Alexi Lalas, tries to reduce the divide in perceptive quality between the MLS (in general) and the major European leagues throughout his many social media platforms. His arguments largely centre around the distribution of fútbol wealth.  By fútbol wealth I refer to the tactical and technical superiority that exists in Europe.  Whereas in Europe we find the player that can create space, take advantage of space, exploit tactics, and generally dominate a game those players are few and are concentrated amongst the financially wealthier football clubs.  This, of course, leads to the consistent domination of leagues by a select few (Juventus and Real Madrid, for example).  But in the MLS, that fútbol wealth is artificially distributed amongst all the teams.

Or so it’s supposed to be.  The salary cap is an antique view of limiting the owner’s expenses by denying the free market of football players that exists throughout the world.  The intended effect was to guarantee a modicum of success to every team such that the customers kept in touch with the growing league (I use ‘customer’ purposefully to differentiate from the ‘supporters’ that have arisen recently) and not feel as if any one particular team was set up to constantly overpower the rest.

This had many effects, but the one I’m more concerned with is the the effect it had on the quality of the footballer.  There is a perceptive difference when you watch even a lower league opposed to the MLS.  We can see a difference in technical ability and tactical ability and to that, the use and understanding of the spatial movement within the field is truly limited in the MLS player.

Whereas on any given matchday an MLS team can certainly perform against top European teams (leaving aside the Real Madrids of the world), it is this technical ability to understand and exploit the tactical that fails the typical MLS player.  And this is the most glaring difference between leagues that protectionists and apologists, like Alexi Lala’s, fail to account for.

It has certainly become better, but when we see players pulled around so easily and quickly as happens to the Caps all too often, there is a great footballing chasm made aware.

This game was a win.  Yes.  But the quality of our team appears lacking.

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