It was football last night, but not as we know it. The LA Galaxy’s 4-3 win on penalties over the Melbourne Victory at Etihad Stadium had all the ingredients needed for a big match. David Beckham, Robbie Keane, Landon Donovon, a big crowd and a few outrageous haircuts.
Yet, somehow, it felt like we were watching a glorified kick around at the park. As Victory skipper Adrian Leijer said after the match: “it wasn’t about the result.”
Sure we had a Beckham shot from half way, bringing back memories of his memorable goal for Manchester United against Wimbledon at Selhurst Park in 1996.
Keane even got jeered while taking two dubiously awarded penalties for one of the 697 clubs that he supported as a boy.
Still, something was missing. Football without intensity is strangely boring.
Whenever a ball was turned over it was hard to find someone who cared enough to turn and chase. Roddy Vargas wasn’t even bothered if any of his passes found another player let alone a team-mate in the first half.
These games could be so much more.
It’s time the A-League and the MLS turned their relationship into something more meaningful.
At the moment it’s like Tiger Woods coming out to Australia and only playing the pro-am before departing.
If the logistics could be worked out it would be fantastic to see the A-League champions and the winners of the MLS Cup face off every year for a trophy.
The fixture could be squeezed in at this time of year. It would mean a team like the Galaxy taking on the A-League winners from the season before, but that is no different to the current set up for Australian teams competing in the Asian Champions League.
The Hyundai/Dodge/Pepsi/Coca-Cola shield would take time to gain relevance, but surely it would be better than one off friendlies.
It would also ensure a lasting relationship between the two leagues. If, and when, Beckham moves on to more Parisian surrounds, it’s likely no A-League side will bother playing a mid-season friendly against a team from the MLS.
Australian officials can learn a lot from their American counterparts. The MLS travelled the same path as the A-League earlier in its existence.
Now the average attendance for the 18, yes 18 teams, climbed to 17,872 for the season just completed.
That means more people attend MLS games than NBA (17,323) and the NHL (17,132).
Teams in Vancouver, Kansas City, Portland, Philadelphia also have stadiums built specifically for them and the Houston Dynamo will join that list next season.
They’re boutique arenas that create a unique football atmosphere. Sound familiar anyone?
While most of the intelligence gathering by A-League officials should be done off the field, it would be nice to have an outward on-field symbol of what could be a fantastic partnership.