James Grossi writes from Toronto for The Shin Guardian
Bare quotes are always dangerous without context.
In what amounted to a vain attempt at researching the actual source of the attributed quotes, only to discover that the Gazzetta Dello Sport website has a pay-wall – though it must be admitted that comprehension would have been a problem anyways – the problem of what to make of snippets from a player or manager who has been asked for their view on MLS has reared its head again.
The comments – roughly that MLS lacked tactical discipline and needed to bring in new managers to augment the brain-trust – echoed something Branko Boskovic tried to elucidate on the Capital Soccer Show a few weeks back.
Boskovic was discussing his trouble finding the fitness required for a full ninety minutes in North America and commented that in Europe when a team takes the lead, each and every player on the pitch uses their lifetime of tactical training to stifle the opposition, letting the ball do the work, suffocating the match, allowing the team protecting the lead to conserve energy and see out the result without much fuss.
Here however, that simple act of shutting down the opponent does not – perhaps, cannot – happen with such efficiency; unless the club in question is Bruce Arena’s LA Galaxy of 2011, who were quite fond on the 1-0 score-line, even excelling at it.
The extra running that was required in the more frantic play of MLS was the cause of Boskovic’s lack of fitness. In essence, he felt he was probably good enough for entirety of the cooler atmosphere of a more-controlled European match; here, more was required of him – something he vowed to get on top of now that he was healthy and getting time on the pitch.
Some simple numbers back up the assertion that teams lack the ability to tactically close down a match: At the time of writing, 224 MLS matches have been played so far this season, removing the 14 that ended as scoreless draws – thereby focusing on those contests where there was the possibility of a comeback – the team that opened the scoring has lost 36 matches and tied a further 31. Just shy of 1/3 of matches witnessed a reversal of the destination of the points after either team had taken the advantage.
587 goals have been scored in those matches, 118 from minutes 60-to-75 and 128 from minutes 75-to-90 – San Jose accounts for 29 of those goals, but that doesn’t matter at the moment – more than 40% of goals have come in the final third of the match: clearly a disproportionate amount.
Some of that disparity can be accounted for by the ticking clock, necessitating the taking of risks, the effects of exhaustion, leading to poor decision making or mistakes, plays its role too, as does the potential that defensive substitute’s are not as good as starters, or that the desperate throwing on of additional attackers leads to increased scoring chances.