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Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Scoreless Draw

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Don Garber is known for saying things, and sometimes he says crazy things. Is he serious about not awarding points for 0-0 draws?
Don Garber is known for saying things, and sometimes he says crazy things. Is he serious about not awarding points for 0-0 draws?

Don Garber hates 0-0 draws.

Or at least that’s what we’re led to believe based on comments he’s made over the last month, suggesting no points should be awarded for a 0-0 draw.

The most recent manifestation of his disdain for the goal-less tie is a recent tweet from Garber, mentioned in this week’s Around the League podcast.

The Red Bulls haven’t played to a single 0-0 draw this season, so Hans Backe and the gang aren’t yet in danger of losing their favorite result (not that the change would affect the team’s record this year anyway), but in an interview with The Star-Ledger last month Garber said MLS would start looking at ways to “create a brand for what kind of league we are.”

Garber says there are too many draws, specifically too many 0-0 draws. There have been so many draws, in fact the single season MLS record was set July 5. The league, as Garber put it to the Star-Ledger, wants “make it more valuable for a club to play to win every game as opposed to just playing for a point” and are “looking at what those initiatives can be.”

The logic goes that when a game ends in a 0-0 draw, there isn’t enough attacking going on to satisfy anyone’s soccer-related desires, which is fair if not a bit inaccurate. Even a 1-1 result sees some scoring, whereas the 0-0 result implies two teams milling about standoffishly in the midfield kicking the ball back and forth to each other. But a stupendous performance in goal on both sides of the pitch could contribute to a 0-0 result. Then again, so could both teams playing it safe to hold low table spots and avoid relegation or keep themselves in playoff contention. Granted, the latter is more likely than the former in the MLS, where a promotion and relegation system isn’t in place.

It’s for this reason the goal-less draw is such a contentious issue: It could be the result of some entertaining goalkeeping and good defensive soccer or it could be two teams figuratively giving each other a nod and a wink while playing 90 minutes at three-quarters speed.

Garber is known for saying a lot of things – note the madness our throwback jersey-wearing hipster counterparts have put up with – so this could just be bluster, and we should all hope it is. If adopted, this initiative, designed to open up the game more, will more than likely just lead to sloppier soccer from the eleven on the field, and from the back line especially.

But there is one thing Garber could be missing in this, the Year of the Draw, that the league has a pretty tremendous amount of parody parity in comparison with the rest of the world.

Based on salary figures released by the MLS Players Union in May and today’s standings the top four teams in the East have a total payroll below $4 million, with the Red Bulls sitting at number five with the league’s highest payroll. It might be a little easier to buy a win in the West, with four of the top five teams with a payroll below $4 million, the outlier being the Galaxy with the league's second highest payroll. Granted, the drop off from LA and the Bulls is pretty steep, but of those ten teams mentioned six have payrolls below $3.5 million. So money can’t buy wins like it can through much of Europe.

In the playoff race, it’s realistic to think there are seven teams competing for four wild card playoff spots, with Colorado, Salt Lake, Philadelphia and the Red Bulls all in if the season were to end today, and Chivas, DC and Portland outside the playoff picture, but with legitimate shots at making it.

So the 0-0 draw, while a bit nuisance and not something anyone really wants to see, might not be a product of teams playing overly cautious, but a sign of how evenly matched the teams are, even if there are big differences in payroll.