There was one moment among many during Saturday's Montreal - Portland game where the Impact decided to fight through a crowded box and take their chances. This was soccer without space. Enough ankles and feet made sure the ball got nowhere near goal. There was no threat from the wings, and, once committed, no real direction in that cavalcade of players.
Fans cheered because the ball was in the box, but short several defenders crashing into each other this was no chance. No clever pass to punish that defense from collapsing in front of their goal. No way to get a shot on target, and no rebound opportunity. No Impact player available behind the play to force Portland to reset. It was as one-dimensional as professional soccer should ever be allowed to get.
Yet it was by definition a chance. An MLS 'not worthy of the cheers' chance, but still a chance. It's this lack of style that reminds people what they're watching. It's hard to make a case for the glory game when professionals are doing what's expected at much lower levels.
Nobody watches a game thinking every moment will be the sport in full flight, but what about basic execution of simple strategy on both sides of the ball? Though Montreal went onto win the game, the problems from both teams over that opening 45 minutes loom large. After all, these are two of the newer teams that draw the larger new crowds.
There's a take it for granted cornerstone of the MLS style of play that winning solves all problems. This is where we would usually talk about LA firing Sigi Schmid a few years ago when he was winning, but that was a specific situation that reveals very little about this League as a whole. Most of the time, winning usually works in MLS. There's not enough evidence for any coach to trade a moribund style of play if he's winning games. Crowd the box, hit it long, and hope for the odd goal.
Corner Rating: (with 1 as most coaches in this League leaving it to the front office to figure out how to sell tickets and 11 the coaches realizing they're part of an entertainment business where winning might not always be enough) 3.
Last Week's Corner: Since Portland was the losing team in our example this week, their win over Sporting takes a hit as a long-term indicator of good things for the Timbers. That said, we're keeping the rating at 5 since we probably weren't as respectful last week as we should've been. After all, regardless of how they did it, they're the team that ended KC's run.