While watching the Sporting KC at Chicago game this weekend, the announcers said that MLS has asked refs to crack down on time wasting because ‘nobody wants to watch that,’ after a Chicago player earned a yellow card for kicking the ball away to slow down a Sporting KC throw-in.
Not much later, a ‘soft’ penalty, as the same announcers described it, was called against KC resulting in a PK and goal that put Chicago up 2-1. This was shortly after a harder penalty was not called against Chicago.
I can tell you what fans don’t want to watch even less than time wasting is penalty calls like those.
I’ve seen it enough of those in recent years go against Sporting KC to raise my eyebrows.
In some cases, these bad calls or no calls have come at pivotal moments of playoff games where it’s easy to imagine a story line where the MLS believes it would be more beneficial for he other team to advance, like that team has a higher home TV market rating.
But, in an early season game with little consequence, it doesn’t seem like there would be as much motive to be so blatant. But, then again, Chicago’s ownership changed hands recently after nearly going out of business and the new owner is trying to rebuild (or maybe just build). Maybe MLS thinks getting off to a good start this season, especially with a home game, will create some buzz and attract more interest and viewers in Chicago to help the building process. From the looks of the stands, they need all the help they can get.
But, soft calls like those, be they random or motivated by bigger goals, detract. I already have suspicions that results are massaged for what the MLS leaders think will result in more ratings. Moments like that don’t help dissuade those suspicions.