Eddie Gaven

Babblin' Brooks: Growing every day

Welcome to another episode in the series that is Babblin' Brooks. Here was last week's trivia question:

Who scored the game-winning overtime goal in San Jose's 2-1 victory over Los Angeles to win the 2001 MLS Cup?

The answer to this one came in the sixth minute of the first overtime, when Dwayne De Rosario scored in a dazzling individual effort, side-stepping one opponent, curling the ball past the 'keeper, off the post and into the net.

Congratulations to Josh L. from Tucson, Ariz., Anthony Sabia from Harrison, N.J., PW from N.Y., T.J. and Tom for guessing the correct answer.

Now, onto the babblin'...

With the playoffs coming closer, I have found myself glued to my computer more often, visiting MLSnet.com and watching live feeds of important games. I keep thinking about how the game of soccer has grown over the past 10 years, which is what this week's column is all about.

From its inception to 1999, Major League Soccer games never ended in draws. After regulation, if both teams were tied, the game would go into a shootout. MLS modified what exactly a shootout was.

Instead of taking a penalty kick, the players would start from 30 yards out while the keeper would begin on his line. When the whistle blew, the player dribbled up to the goal as the keeper tried to stop the ball from crossing the goal line.

Melanie G., of Cherry Hill, N.J. said that she is glad that the days of shootouts are over.

"It just was not the way you wanted to see a game end," said Melanie. "I thought the shootouts were exciting, but if you are going to end a game like that, at least do it from the penalty spot."

Critics say that American soccer was trying to be too different from the European style of play, which was not the right move. Afterwards, the MLS front office changed their overtime policy with a "golden goal" rule.

Through the 2003 season, after 90 minutes of play, if the teams were still even, they would play two five-minute overtime periods, with the game ending after one goal. If teams were still tied after both overtimes, each team would get one point for a draw.

That worked for a couple of years, until FIFA eliminated "sudden death" overtime from its Laws of the Game. MLS adopted the rules in use in many leagues overseas. That was, if the teams were tied after 90 minutes, the game would end, with each team receiving one point.

The rule changes, like these and others, have done nothing but help the popularity of soccer in America. It is hard to admit, but I need to be honest: soccer is the least popular of the big five sports in this country (baseball, football, basketball and hockey).

A major reason for this, with the occasional exception of baseball, is all of these sports have high-scoring games. Americans love points and love seeing them be scored. The most exciting plays, to fans, are grand slams in baseball, touchdowns in football and three-pointers in basketball. There is no idea or term that can describe a high-scoring play in the game of soccer. In fact, it is not surprising to see a scoreless tie once every couple of weeks.

Another reason for the lack of reputation is the success level we have had. However, over these 10 years, with the help of MLS producing young and talented players, America has grown to be the seventh best team in the entire world. Players like Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley and Taylor Twellman, whose careers were born in the MLS, have gone from unknown athletes to national icons.

There is no reason for American soccer to stop where it is right now, especially with the increased media attention they are starting to receive. With the 2006 World Cup berth that the United States earned, I expect there to be a significant rise in fan morale of soccer, heading into the biggest sporting event in the world. If you do not believe the boost in media attention, please explain to me why else ESPN/ABC Sports chose to present all 64 matches for the first time ever.

America has waited over three years to prove that the 2002 World Cup was not a fluke and send a message to the world that they are here to stay among the competition.

The MetroStars have had their fair share of American stars: Tab Ramos, Tony Meola, Tim Howard and Clint Mathis and it will not stop there.

With young players like Eddie Gaven, Tim Ward and Michael Bradley, the Metros are sure to see some call-ups of these players over the next few years.

The game of soccer, in America, did not begin with the MLS in 1996, though, which brings us to this week's trivia question.

Before the MLS inception and also before I was born, America had the North American Soccer League (NASL). In the NASL, the Cosmos were the team that played in the New York/New Jersey Area.

In 1977, the New York Cosmos won the NASL Championship. Who was the MVP?

If you have the answer as well as any questions or comments, feel free to e-mail me at sbrooks@metrostars.com and I will be happy to respond.

Thanks for reading and make sure to catch the MetroStars host D.C. United on Saturday at 7:30 P.M., live on MSG.

That's all the babblin' I have time for this week. Go Metros!