I’m currently on my fifth day running of work meetings running from 8:00 in the morning to 4:00 in the afternoon, and I think I’m about to go off my head. This is a new job at a place that I really love and with people who are great to work with, but the prospect of spending another day of team building, strategic planning, technology workshops, and other institutional hoohah is making me just the slightest bit cranky. It’s the kind of thing that makes one focus obsessively on life’s little irritations. Like for instance, why is it that Calibri 11 point is the default font for Microsoft Word? Calibri? Seriously? Who writes anything in freaking Calibri? I used to know how to change the default settings, but I’ve forgotten and instead of looking it up in the Help menu, I choose to curse in vain. So there.
While I’m on the topic of things that annoy me, I want to say a few words about the unbalanced schedule that the league has run out this year. I officially hate it. I understand what they were trying to do. In the process of building of the institutional and fan cultures of this league, the people running the show wanted to pump of the level of intradivisional competition. This is by no means unheard of in American sport. All of the major leagues in this country do some version of this. In some cases, as with the NFL for instance, there aren’t enough games in the season for all the teams to play each other, so the league circulates which extradivisional teams will play each other (also mixing some calculation of schedule strength based on previous record if I recall correctly). Baseball too has a version of this, especially since they introduced the abomination that it interleague play.
It is actually the latter that is the model for what is wrong with the way the MLS has approached scheduling, at least to my way of thinking. I start from this fundamental premise that, to the greatest degree possible, teams should play equivalent schedules. The reason is simply that this creates the most level playing field in terms of the level of competition in the course of the regular season. In the case of the NFL this is impossible to achieve, since playing more than 16 regular season games would be unduly taxing on the bodies of the players. Both the NHL and the NBA generally have a more equitable schedule in these terms. In the case of baseball, the result of the interleague imbalance is that, for instance, the Yankees end up playing the Mets a lot in interleague play as a means of hyping up the local rivalry. The problem here is that, because everyone plays someone different, one team may get stuck playing an interleague series against a division leader, while another gets the opportunity to hammer a bottom feeder for a few days.
My objection the application of asymmetric scheduling to the MLS is slightly different. Because of the odd number of games that we now play against all of the other teams in the league, the number of home and away matches is unequal, although the proportion remains the same. Thus, for instance, we got to play the Galaxy twice in LA, and only once at the JW. Also, it means that we get exposed to the better teams in this division more often, while not getting the opportunity to play a few more winnable matches (against teams like our opponents tonight). This wouldn’t be quite so vexing if we’d been playing better, but we haven’t, and it is.
Tonight is our one and only meeting of the season with TFC. Do not let what I said above about this match being “winnable” lull you (or make you think that I have been lulled) into a false sense of security (to say nothing of confidence) about this match. Ok, I suppose that that warning was hardly necessary, since we are all long past the point of high expectations or taking anything for granted. Nonetheless, this a team that has really struggled this season, and one that is, as sunshine noted in yesterday’s column, a bit shorthanded as well. This should be a good test on the road for the new, more compact formation that we’ve been playing of late. Not to pick at a topic that was discussed to death on this forum (not least by me) but BMO field is, as far as I am aware, the only park in the league with smaller pitch dimensions than the JW. What will this mean for us in practice? Well, at the very least, it should mean that our formation should translate well into the conditions there and that our midfield should be able to simplify the spatial problems with which they will be confronted. We are still in the process of learning a new way of playing, and we have yet to run it out onto some of the more expansive pitches in the league, so it will be nice to run it out on the road, against a team who are playing at a similar competitive level to our own.
One thing that you can always be sure of is that there will be a raucous atmosphere. Toronto’s fans are, I think it’s fair to say, a lot like our own. Practically every match that I have ever seen played there (and I’ve only seen them on television of course) has looked like a street carnival. In a way, we should feel right at home. The crowd will be shouting abuse rather than praise, but professionals feed on that. Perhaps it will give Boyd the motivation he needs to get it going.
Ok, I know that the end of this thing is a little ragged, but I have to head out to more meeting about technology and learning styles and the proper forms to fill out. I’ll post some stuff tonight on the FB page leading up the game, assuming I haven’t fallen asleep in one of these meetings and be locked in the building for the night.