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Complete archive of Robert Wagman's It Seems to Me.

It Seems To Me . . .

Unless you like e-mail, donít tell MLS fans shootout must go.

By Robert Wagman
Special to SoccerTimes

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Thursday, October 1, 1998) -- I surrender. I never realized Major League Soccer commissioner Doug Logan has that many relatives and/or people who owe him money. I think I have received e-mail from most of them since I wrote last week that Loganís beloved shootout should be eliminated, and two teams that draw should each get a point and be allowed to go home.

Of course, Iím only kidding about the commissionerís relatives and debtors. But I am not kidding about the e-mails. In the week since I wrote that column, I have received approximately 120 e-mails, many rather lengthy. By my count, 103 favor the shootout, and most were opposed to my alternative suggestion: if you are going to keep the shootout than honor the effort of both teams by awarding each one point for the tie on either a 3-2-1 or 4-2-1 basis, with the extra point going to the shootout winner.

To me what I wrote was virtually self-evident. I believed, and truthfully I still do, that true soccer purists are comfortable with draws, and that playing for a strategic tie on the road, or when you are outmatched, is a time honored part of the game. I believe that drawn matches should either be left a draw, or played to a conclusion on the field in overtime, or replayed. I think it is wrong to use a shootout, penalty kicks, a coin flip or any other such means to decide a winner.

But in the face of this e-mail onslaught, I am willing to concede what Logan and MLS have been saying: that the American audience has no stomach for ties, and apparently they actually like, and not just tolerate, the MLS shootout.

My correspondents fell into various categories. Many simply like the shootout for its excitement. Others think it a fair way of deciding a winner, given time constraints imposed by television. A surprising number of writers were against the idea of awarding the shootout loser a point for the draw.

I was surprised at the number of young fans have seem to have bought into the "thrill of victory, agony of defeat" idea, and believe that losers should go home empty handed. A little harsh, I think, but many obviously believe, as one writer put it: "You lose, you lose you should get zip."

Some though the awarding of a point to the team that draws but loses the shootout was no big deal. "Itís only a point," one put it. Thatís true, but this season if a point had been awarded to shootout losers, Tampa Bay, which lost four shootouts, would have advanced to the playoffs ahead of the Miami Fusion.

Still others objected to awarding each team a point for probably a more valid reason. Several writers pointed out that if you award points to all ties, you could end up at seasonís end with a team advancing to the playoffs having lost more matches than it has won, because it has managed to draw a whole lot of matches. Writer Stan Collins pointed out this happened in the A-League in 1995 when as a result of a 3-2-1 system, the Atlanta Ruckus made the playoffs despite losing twice as often as they won.

In the final analysis Commissioner Logan was not surprised that MLS fans do support the shootout. "Itís part of the American psyche to want the game to determine a winner and loser. Maybe in Europe, or other parts of the world, draws or playing for a tie are accepted. But not here. I think what we are doing is correct. I think because of the shootout you see more attacking soccer in the last 10 minutes of a match in this league than in any league in the world."

On another subject: A number of you have e-mailed me asking what has happened to American Jovan Kirovski, who plays in Germany. For the last two seasons, Kirovski pretty much sat on the bench at Bundesliga power Borussia Dortmund, although last season, when the club has a series of injuries, he appeared in six matches, scoring one goal.

This season Dortmund has lent him to second division club Fortuna Cologne. So far, Fortuna has played eight matches. Kirovski has started as a forward in seven. He has been substituted for in five of the matches. He has one goal, on a penalty kick, in Fortunaís season opening 2-1 victory over Dusseldorf. He has received one yellow card.

Bob Wagman wrote a nationally syndicated political column for Scripps-Howard for many years. At the same time he has covered soccer in North America for British and South African newspapers since the days of the North American Soccer League. His "Football In America" column now appears regularly in British newspapers. He can be e-mailed at MobileWag@aol.com.