Here are a few of the little things that bug most about the local league.Major League Soccer is far from perfect, but it is an improving league. In my years of covering the sport I've seen both the passion and technical skill grow, the stadiums get much nicer, and the uniforms improve.
There's no more tweaking of the standard rules of the game, and fans are now as likely to cheer a nutmeg or a clean tackle as they are a shot that comes close to the goal.
However, though there are some issues that are bigger, I have to admit that some of the things that bother me most about MLS are small, yet irritating little things that should, in my opinion, be changed.
1. A little less conversation, a little more action - Listen to over half the goal calls on MLS highlight videos and the "play-by-play" announcer is either interrupting a random story by the color guy or interrupting his own random story to suddenly acknowledge a goal is being scored.
Let's just make the crazy assumption that anyone watching an MLS match on TV actually wants to do so and would like to hear less aimless soccer chit-chat and more about the game. Announcers should be alert to every goalscoring chance - the close calls are part of the excitement of a match.
2. Could we have some more, please? MLS is far more affordable than many leagues around the world or even most professional sports in the U.S., but it's still a growing league, and should admit that. Certain teams don't seem interested in giving fans any break. In every stadium, there should be at least one decent food deal (Buck a Brat in Columbus can't be beat), and every club should have one great ticket deal, even if it's for a small section of nosebleed seats.
3. Denial isn't just a river in Egypt. The necessary evil of turf fields is debatable, but the really annoying factor is the people who defend the plastic stuff. It is simply not ideal for the game, but forget trying to get any artificial surface folk to admit that.
4. Don't speak. Fans who boo goals by the opposition are poor sports. Ok, exceptions are obvious if it was a cheap goal on a missed offside, or scored off a foul on a defender that the referee didn't see. But the game is bigger than mere rivalry, and goals are the epitome of accomplishment, so a few moments of stunned, sullen silence that allows for the goalscorer to celebrate with his teammates and perhaps a few brave traveling fans and family is appropriate. Props also to game announcers who aren't such homers that they can't acknowledge a great goal by the opposition as such.
5. Throw trash in its place. Fans don't belong on the field - neither does their stuff. Don't throw crap on the field.
6. It's a goal. Why do so many announcers try so hard to be original? "It's in there!" or "He scores!" or "That's it!" are generic calls that could apply to a variety of sports. Has Andres Cantor intimidated everyone else so completely they're scared to say the word that made him famous? If someone scores a goal, that's what it is, and the announcer shouldn't be afraid to say that.
7. Relegation refusers. Really? Of all the reasons to not watch a league, it's not because of the players or the quality of the play, or the lack of a local team, but because it doesn't have relegation? I can understand, "MLS is getting better, but even as I watch that improvement, I still wish the league would have relegation and single-table to settle a winner," but a boycot based on something that can't actually be seen in the course of a game? Refusing to watch games played on turf makes more sense.
8. Schedule, schmedule. One reason a single table doesn't seem fair is that since some MLS games are still played during international breaks (ahem, this weekend), certain teams will basically get punished for having international players. Everyone knows that teams have to contend with injuries, etc, but to have a club team have to play without a fit international simply because the schedule ignored the conflict is lame.
9. Make new friends, but keep the old. MLS does have a little bit of history, but it seems to get the short shrift in the fascination over growth and expansion. Even the teams that were MLS originals seem to want to wipe away the past through re-branding. There should be more mentions of a club's journey and former players. New fans shouldn't feel like this year's squad is the only one that ever existed.
10. Stick to something. MLS has gotten sucked into the ridiculousness of the Khaddafi, Quadafi, Gaddafi nonsense. As in, is it simply "MLS" short for Major League Soccer, or "the MLS", short for the Major League Soccer?
Obviously, I've made my choice, but those associated with the league go back and forth, sometimes switching references within the same conversation. Announcers, coaches, commissioners, those on one side of the border, those on the other - it's the same league. Settle on the name.
Andrea Canales is an editor of Goal.com North America and is trying to remember to update her Twitter account.
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