We were able to attend the Dynamo vs. Real Salt Lake match last night - the first Dynamo match myself or my family have been able to make in over a month. It turned out to be a very exciting match - four Dynamo goals with a hattrick by Nate Jaqua, and a late comeback by Salt Lake to see a final score of 4-3. It's not everyday you see a seven goal soccer match.
I realize that I am quite biased, but when the Dynamo are playing their best, they seem almost a cut above MLS. They have times of really beautiful soccer where they just slice the opposing team apart with quick, creative passing and smart runs. It really is fun to watch as a fan. Last night, for about an hour, they played like that. Given - RSL is the worst team in MLS, and have been for their 3 years in the league. But the Dynamo have shown that class in other games, against much better teams - a 4-0 victory over Chivas USA on a Thursday night springs to mind. Last night, I think the fourth goal (Jaqua's third) was evidence of the Dynamo at their best. Ricardo Clark took possession in midfield and played a quick, aggressive ball up to Dwayne DeRosario just to the outside and left of center of the penalty area. DeRosario turned nicely on it, and looked as if he might move to the center - but instead very quickly played the ball forward to the left, where Corey Ashe came running on it and played an early cross perfectly - it was a thing of beauty - to Jaqua storming in to the area. Jaqua very simply placed the ball in the back of the net for the goal. It was very fast, it was quick, one touch passing (there were a total of five touches from Clark to the goal - Clark's pass, DeRo's turn, his pass, Ashe's cross, the finish), it made RSL really look like amateurs - AND, it looked so simple. That's Houston at their best. If they can get healthy and harness that beautiful game for 90 minutes a night, they have a serious shot at defending the MLS Cup this year.
Having said all that - and watched a pretty exciting MLS match last night - MLS has a genuinely serious problem: The officiating in MLS is shamefully poor. No, I'm not just a fan railing about the bad calls his team gets. RSL got as many bad calls last night as the Dynamo, if not more. In fact, my concern isn't even due exclusively to Houston matches. I tend to watch quite a bit of soccer. Almost every MLS match I watch stands out because the officials are so poor - they are inconsistent, they do not keep tempers properly in check (which invariably leads to things getting chippy later), they consistently miss off-sides calls (both ways), and more than anything else - they just stand out. I've recently noticed that when watching English, or Italian, or Argentinean, or International soccer, I rarely if ever even notice the officiating crew. That is the way it is supposed to be. If they are doing their job professionally, they do not stand out, do not take away from the match.
MLS officials are rarely that way. The officials have simply not kept up to the professional standard of the league. The standard of play in MLS has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 12 years, the standard for the officiating has not. MLS leaders better take some steps to bring some professionalism to their officials, or this league will never achieve the respect it is pursuing.