Good Friday morning Caps fans, hope you all are enjoying the cornucopia of soccer we are currently in the midst of. The weekend is fast approaching.
The Caps now know their marching orders for Sunday night’s clash with LA Galaxy, who lost to Leon 1-0 in the midweek. This result means that the Caps will be unable to win the group, no matter what happens — but that a draw would theoretically be enough to see them into the next round, provided they win the penalty shootout (which, as we saw last Friday, is not a given).
The league has continued to be transfixed by Lionel Messi, who scored two goals in the midweek against Atlanta United and generally has Inter Miami looking like a competent team.
But the conversation has not just been around Messi’s impact on the field, but also the possible rules changes the league might be looking at to fully capitalize on his arrival. The Athletic reported there was some very limited discussion of possible changes when MLS’ executives met in Washington D.C. against the backdrop of the all star game.
The specifics of what was discussed aren’t reported and it doesn’t seem like it entail the wholesale loosening of the current restrictions that some are calling for. But even smaller tweaks are welcome in a league that has so often resisted change that could see spending (and the on the field product) increase.
Well, maybe not everyone welcomes this. Axel Schuster is quoted in the piece as cautioning against any change and extolling the patience that is inherent in the current system.
“I think the roster rules are good, we have done well over the last years in calmness to discuss the next steps,” Schuster is quoted as saying. “We should continue this process. Every time in this business that gets so speeded up sometimes where leagues do something then have regret later. We should think it through well, then make adjustments when we’re sure they’re right for the future.”
I get where Axel is coming from on this and his sentiment is likely shared by both those who have a long memory to the early days or the league and ownership groups in smaller markets or those who have been historically been less lavish in their spending habits.
Vancouver certainly fits that profile — and while Greg Kerfoot has some power in this process as a co-chair of the committee that deals with these issues, he has generally not used it to produce marked change.
But the limitations of the current system are clear. Currently, a team must either do a masterful job of building a roster (and then see that roster vultured by European clubs at the first available opportunity), break the rules (as Inter Miami and LA Galaxy have done) or be like Toronto FC and wind up with a ludicrously unbalanced roster that may be entertaining to watch implode (if you’re a rival fan) but which doesn’t do much for the on-the-field product.
Messi’s arrival has already catapulted the league into a level of visibility with casual fans that it has not enjoyed since the zenith of David Beckham’s stardom, if ever. Allowing a more even distribution of spending across rosters is a logical way of ensuring that the product consumed by casual fans both has some level of parity and allows more ambitious teams to start taking steps ahead of the pack and building out a more complete roster.
If Leagues Cup is likely to reinforce anything, it is that MLS’ top level talents are in line with their Liga MX counterparts — Emmanuel Reynoso is as good as anyone on any pitch in North America. But depth continues to be starkly different between the two leagues.
Trying to urge the Caps’ ownership group to reverse their position on the value of addressing that discrepancy is probably fruitless. But there will come a day when the current rules, which have in part covered up the owners’ ambivalence, will fade away. And then they shouldn’t be surprised if the club is scarcely relevant in a post-Messi era. Hopefully things won’t reach that point.
Shameless Self Promotion
Best of the Rest
Canada turned things around to see off Ireland in their second match of the World Cup, giving them a clear path to the knockout stages
Meanwhile, the men’s team has sent a cease-and-desist letter to national team sponsors amid the ongoing collective bargaining standoff
A nice profile on JC Ngando, who has looked increasingly solid as a depth option
The early returns show, rather predictably, that Lionel Messi has been good for business
Portland is on the verge of signing Brazilian winger Antony. No, not that Brazilian winger Antony