Earlier this year it was announced that MLS would adopt an unbalanced schedule to adapt to the Montreal Impact joining the league. Said announcement was met with groans and sighs from soccer purists all over the country. Fans who enjoy the European leagues seemingly felt the frustration more than the rest of us for the obvious reason that it brings another degree of separation between MLS and the sport standard.
Despite not being a European purist about the sport, I was also a bit miffed when it was announced because I worried that it would take away from the Supporters Shield, which was a trophy I felt really meant something in the grand scheme of things. Not that the play offs aren't fun, but it was a true indicator of a team's consistency over the course of a season. However, when the season got underway I pushed all that to the side and decided to just see how it would play out. Maybe it would be the best thing ever!
The reason why I bring this up right now is because we are right in the middle of the season and we are looking at four consecutive games where the Timbers will have played the same two western conference teams over the course of four regular season games. This is on top of the two other games the Timbers played against them just a few weeks before that. That might be exciting in basketball, baseball and hockey, but it's fairly monotonous in soccer.
Look at it this way, from my point of view heading into a match is all about analyzing and figuring out the opposing team. Perhaps we here at Stumptown Footy are a little more in depth than the typical Timbers fan, but I'd be willing to wager (given our traffic numbers at least) that a few of you are interested in that sort of thing as well. But what is there for us to cover anymore? What is there for you to read about anymore? You guys know all about Chivas USA and FC Dallas already. Not a lot has changed in the last 10 days for the teams.
And no offense to Chivas and Dallas, but short of the LA Galaxy (for the more casual fans), the Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps (for Cascadia Cup followers) playing a team more than once at home just doesn't have the same kind of excitement. And truth be told, I'm not sure if we'll see the same kind of excitement against Seattle either... I hope we do, but I can't say for certain until it actually comes.
The reverse side of it is that I miss seeing the Timbers play against Eastern Conference teams. I really do! In fact, I miss it so much that I honestly forget some Eastern Conference teams even exist. When was the last time I had anything to say about the Columbus Crew, for example? Oh that's right. It was when they were here for that forgettable nil-nil. Well that's the last time we'll see them this year. See you guys in March!
This schedule is diluting the rivalries the Western Conference has built up over the years and is driving a huge wedge in between the two conferences. Instead of feeling like a 19 team league, it honestly feels like MLS is a 9+ league for us. 9 teams plus whatever you'd call the brief stints against Eastern Conference sides which don't really matter except to get 3 points. There's no edge, no "you beat us at home now we're gonna do the same to you!" mentality. Just get in, get the 3 points, and let's all get on with our lives.
I understand MLS's side in all this. I understand that traveling can be very exhausting and expensive on teams. I'm not saying they don't have a point in all this, but for the love of crackers, look at the recent schedule for the Timbers:
- July 18th @ Chivas USA
- Jul 21st @ FC Dallas
- July 28th vs. Chivas USA
- August 5th vs. FC Dallas