I have some sympathy for Galaxy boss Bruce Arena, who – having watched his makeshift team beaten and shut-out by the Rapids for the second time this season – bemoaned the scheduling of fixtures at the same time as the FIFA international dates.
The Galaxy, for a third meeting with the Rapids this season, were without Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez – their three Designated Players.
It’s not a new gripe by Arena. He was sounding-off in similar fashion ahead of the Gold Cup.
And he has a point.
The refusal by MLS to halt play during the FIFA dates may even out the playing field. It may also prevent the need to tweak the start and end of the season, when a clash with other sports or harsh weather conditions would become an issue. But what it also does is dilute the very product that MLS is seeking to showcase.
The international players, of course, are bought in for a variety of reasons, including:
1. To improve the standard of play.
2. To elevate the credibility of the brand to a national and international TV audience.
3. To have household names/role models which will encourage people through the turnstiles (a team without Keane, Donovan and Gonzalez is much less attractive to the floating fan).
Now, I indicated that I had some sympathy for Bruce. Wonder whether he had any sympathy for the Rapids earlier in the season, when injuries denied Oscar Pareja access to Matt Pickens, Edson Buddle, Martin Rivero and Jaime Castrillon. Pareja would also lose Diego Calderon and Pablo Mastroeni to injury before the half-time whistle had blown on that March 23 meeting.
Injuries are part and parcel of all sport, as are international call-ups for the top players (LA were also without goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, while fellow-Panamanian Gabriel Torres was missing from the Rapids).
But until MLS falls into line with other nations – and halts their program for the FIFA dates – then I’m afraid, BA, that you’re going to have to tough it out and deal with it.
I'd be interested to hear what fans think. Would you want the league to shut down during FIFA dates and international tournaments, even if it meant a longer season or more midweek matches?