Saturday, June 25, 2016

Pro Soccer Needs to Grow Up

I started playing soccer when I was five years old, and I played year round until college. From those early years in the 1970s, when everyone told me that by the time I was an adult soccer would be as big in America as the Big Four, I've remained a fan, though I am by no means a regular viewer. And the recent third place game in Copa America between the USA and Columbia is a perfect example of why. Here are some thoughts on that game and the game:

The USA needs to learn to shoot the damn ball. How many touches can a team need when the ball is in the box? European and South American players have always known to push once and shoot. And they've always had the touch to make that happen. For as long as I've watched pro soccer, I've been mystified and annoyed at how Americans always push once too far and lose the ball. Team USA had the ball - in stoppage time down one - in the box and could have taken a dozen shots, but never had the confidence. And USA soccer will always struggle until they learn to pop the shot.

Secondly, the world's game needs to make some definitive rule changes. First, continuous substitution is a no-brainer. A player with fresh legs is more exciting to watch. A rested player stepping on to the pitch seeks to make an immediate impact and change the tempo. The limit on subs is foolish and pointless. Secondly, re-entry for any player should be allowed - another no-brainer. And, along with that, any player who flops for any significant time - especially writhing on the ground - must come off the pitch. He can come back on five minutes later. But if he is going to make a federal case about that little scratch on his elbow or bump on his thigh, he needs to take a seat. Pro soccer players are the biggest wussies in professional sports - and that's saying something considering the corybantics of Lebron James, the biggest wuss of all. Thus, soccer refs need to start issuing yellow cards for ridiculous flopping. I'm just soooooo over the theatrical silliness of the sport.

Finally, soccer needs to get rid of the penalty for off-sides. Arghhhh! Isn't that the worst disappointment to hear the whistle at the most exciting moment of the game. Defenses need to adjust and leave a man back if necessary. If they choose not to, that's their risk. Off-sides simply slows down and stagnates a game that could be so much more engaging. Hockey has made similar changes to the OT periods. And soccer should do the same.

Love you, soccer. Let's be big boys now.

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