John appears to have already stirred the passions of the soccer fanatics with his rant on its lack of scoring. While I generally agree, I’d like to elaborate with soccer’s most egregious offenses to an American sports obsessive:
5. The Imprecision of Time
Certain sports, and I’m thinking mainly of basketball, are almost too precise with time, disrupting the rhythm of a game to determine down to a tenth of a second the proper amount of time on the clock. Soccer takes it in the opposite direction. It’s 90 minutes, give or take extra time, which itself is approximated. This doesn’t bother me too much, except for how, at the end of a match, the referee often allows a team one last push toward the net before blowing his whistle. This is the equivalent of a football ref thinking, “Well, time has run out, but the Colts DO have the ball in the red zone…”.
4. The Flopping
Nothing infuriates me more in soccer than players who flop to the turf, roll around for a bit while wailing, then get up and sprint hard after the ball. The fact that this flopping is often an effective means for drawing a foul only makes it worse. Plus, it cheapens the effect when someone actually does get hurt. Gamesmanship is all well and good, but only up to a point.
3. Playing for a Tie
I can almost–almost–accept the prevalence of ties in soccer. But I can’t accept the idea that teams often play to tie. It goes against every aspect of my competitive athletic being. Cue Herm Edwards! You play to win the game! And you can’t sit here and tell me the U.S. or Uruguay (against France) really played to win those games. I understand that it’s early in the World Cup, and that teams undergo a prolonged feeling-out process because they know you can’t win the Cup in the first match but you can lose it. At the same time, seeing a team drop 10 defenders back in an effort to gain a single point in the standings runs contrary to the very notion of sport.
2. Limited Substitutions
I understand that subbing has never been a big part of soccer; it wasn’t even allowed until the 1970s in the World Cup. I also get that conditioning is an important facet of the sport. But wouldn’t the quality of play be raised significantly if substitutions were unlimited? Imagine if you could only sub a few times every basketball game, to the point where several players played all 48 minutes. Don’t you think the fourth quarter would be substantially less exciting because everyone is so tired? Shots would be missed short, turnovers would increase. This is what happens at the end of soccer games! If you allow for periodic substitutions, then the best players will be fresher at the end of the match and have a better chance of scoring.
1. The Disproportionate Outcome of Fouls
Most of the time when someone is fouled in soccer, his team gets a free kick from the spot of the foul. This gives the team a slight advantage, as it can run a set piece. But it’s more or less the equivalent of inbounding the ball under the basket in basketball. Now, when a team gets fouled in the box, it gets a penalty kick, which is pretty much like giving it a goal.* And considering how few and far between goals are, this is like making a basketball team inbound every time they get fouled, unless they get fouled in the paint, at which point they get a free throw worth 50 points.
*There are at least six spots you can fire a penalty kick, and the goalie can only guess to try to stop one. It is really easy to make a penalty kick.