The Clean Sheet: Parity is <i>so</i> 2004
They say "journalists" are supposed to be objective, but since so many readers (especially those with 312 area codes) like to point out I probably do not qualify for that designation, I am going to be truthful about what I was doing Wednesday between 4 and 6 p.m. on Planet LA.
There I was, Zima in hand, sitting in front of my TV cheering for New Eng-er-land to win and win handily. Hang on Section 8'ers, for once this has nothing to do with the Fire and their cute powder-blues. This is not about my distaste for your squad, but rather about something I dislike even more: parity.
Quick, which team won the most regular season games in MLS last season? You know what? Who cares. It wasn't enough to matter, as parity was the story during Major League Soccer's ninth regular season, in which not one single team was able to establish itself as an elite team day in and day out.
For the first time in MLS history, nary a side won at least half of its matches, as Kansas City led the league with 14 victories from its 30 outings. Worse yet, Supporters' Shield winners Columbus won only 12 times, just three more than San Jose, who had the least amount of wins in 2004.
Now parity in 2004 had its advantages, especially when the playoffs came around and you had absolutely zero idea who would make it to MLS Cup, producing a riveting and spirited tournament. That was fun.
But that was 2004, and much like Paris Hilton's way more than 15 minutes of fame, it is time to put parity to rest. So there I was Wednesday, cheering for Taylor Twellman, Pat Noonan and Clint Dempsey to score a bucketload.
It says here MLS will be a more exciting product if there are a couple teams that distance themselves from the outset as the class of the league. Yes, as pointed out by "Dean" Jeff Bradley, it is way too early in the season to look at results. However, it is not too early to look at rosters and see which teams should have the ability to light up the scoreboards all season, and therefore electrify the fans.
FC Dallas, Los Angeles, New Eng-er-land and D.C., are you listening?
The best thing for MLS in 2005 would be for L.A. and/or Dallas to run away with the West, and likewise D.C. and/or the Revs in the East. On offense, all four of the teams are like that new Pam Anderson show on Fox: stacked. All four of them have potentially lethal offenses that if they perform up to their abilities - and this is the crucial part - people would pay to watch play.
Yes, all four of these teams also may have some serious questions at the back (especially in D.C., where the field could be a trapezoid and they'd still have issues right now). Even better. Last weekend there were 22 goals, and more than a few exciting games. Sign me up for that all season.
So why my aversion to parity? Seems to work for the NFL, where parity has made the league so popular that about 3 billion people watched their latest entry draft, which didn't even feature a player worthy of the top overall pick or a single juicy trade to speak of. (Quick aside: my beloved Hicktown Vikings are going to remember the day they passed on Mike Williams).
But in MLS, I want a couple of teams with targets on their backs all season. A couple of teams who are expected to win every time they play, so much so that the opponent is always gunning for them, raising the level of the match. A couple of teams that when they come to town, the home side gets a bump in attendance because fans will pay to see (a) a dynamic and exciting team with an explosive offense, and (b) if the local club can knock them off their little pedestals. I simply believe that having a few elite teams will raise the overall level of the MLS product, both during the regular season and hopefully when those teams go to play abroad.
So I'll admit it, Wednesday night when Clint Dempsey hit his Goal of the Week (write the press release now) and Pat Noonan added a second, I was begging for the floodgates to open. With Twellman's late strike the match finished 3-0 and the Revs had done their part - they looked primed right now to step up as one of those teams.
That it happened against Chicago ... now that's just gravy.
GRAB A COLD BUD (OR AQUAFINA) AND PUT YER FEET UP:
WHAT I'LL BE WATCHING:
Saturday - UNITED at WIZARDS (4 p.m. ET on The Deuce): A rematch of MLS Cup 2004, now an intra-division battle with both teams in the East this year. I know it's early in the season and standings don't matter much, but the loser could actually end up in last place if the stars align and Metro wins this weekend. Yeah, I know, those stars would have to do some serious aligning.
Saturday - CHIVAS USA at NEW ENG-ER-LAND (7:30 p.m. ET on Fox Soccer Channel): Undefeated New England has scored a league-leading 12 goals in four matches. Winless Chivas USA has surrendered a league-worst 11 goals in 4 matches. Brad Guzan: you may want to wear a helmet.
Tuesday - CHELSEA at LIVERPOOL (2:30 p.m. ET on The Deuce): The first leg at Stamford Bridge was a bit of a 0-0 snoozer, but with a spot in the Champions League final against favorites AC Milan (or Run DMB's PSV) on the line, the return leg at Anfield is probably not one to be missed.
The Clean Sheet runs each Thursday on MLSnet. Views and opinions expressed in this column views and opinions are the author's, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or MLSnet.com. Send any questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org