Monday, February 25, 2008

J League > MLS?

The Pan-Pacific Championship came and went and while the crowds left plenty to be desired the games themselves left me with one impression: Gamba Osaka is a tough club.

Gamba Osaka could have scored several goals on the Galaxy but as it stands walked away with a 1-0 win in a match the Japanese club was clearly the superior one. Against the defending MLS champs, Gamba Osaka dominated as Houston did not belong on the same field as their Japanese brethren.

I've got to admit, I don't watch much of the J League. I watch the Gambare show every now and then on FSC but other than that I don't keep up with that particular league.

But these results left me thinking about the strength of both leagues. Yes, I understand that it would take more than two games to determine the strength of leagues but some MLS fans are quick to say MLS is on par with the Mexican league after a couple of MLS-favorable results.

No, I'm not going to say that based on two games the J League is the dominant league in the Pan Pacific. However, if I had to pick a league, I couldn't say for certain that MLS is the better league. These games actually have me thinking the other way, though again I can't say for sure.

Gamba Osaka demolished one of the teams I have the most respect for in MLS on Saturday. Had they won 2-1 or 3-2 or whatever, then maybe I'd be doing something else right now. But a 6-1 thrashing of Houston is eye-opening.

Yes, I realize it's the preseason and Houston and the Galaxy and neither team is close to the start of the season. But Houston needed these games to prepare for their upcoming CONCACAF Champions Cup matches, and if that's any sort of indiciation of how far they are along in their preseason, they've got a long way to go in a short amount of time.

Though Gamba Osaka looked convincing, I'm not going to say one league is better than the other. But what are your thoughts on the matter? How good is J League compared to MLS, or vice versa?


Anonymous said...

i wouldn't have thought so but Gamba sure looked fantastic.

One thing that MLS encounters when it plays top teams from foreign leagues is that often that one team is not really reflective of the quality of the the overall league.

Like Rangers/Celtic being heads and shoulders above the rest of the SPL.

Saprissa being better then the average Costa Rican team.

Olym? the best Honduran team etc.

Most leagues have top teams that have all the top players where as in MLS all the teams are being weighed down by the CAP which seems to be naturally forcing all teams to gravitate around one level of quality.

So when we play in these top teams in competitions like the Concacaf (sp) champions league and even friendlies the MLS team is a bit up against it.

It may not be a fair way to determine the overall quality of one league vs. another.

Did that make any sense?

Anonymous said...

The most telling thing about Gamba Osaka was that they were missing 7 regulars and played fantastic soccer without them. Some MLS fans will probably dismiss the final against Houston, probably pointing the finger at the absense of De Rosario and Eddie Robinson, but that's just two players, and Osaka was missing seven and still creamed them. Also important to note that the J-league has a three foreigner player limit per team.

I don't know if you can say the J-league overall is better from this one tournament, but they did show they have a strong league, and while the MLS has improved, there's still a long way to go.

just another one of you said...

My rankings of the Pan Pacific Leagues:
1. Mexican (by far)
2. J-League
3. MLS (as a whole closer to a tie)
4. Aussie League (way down)

MLS needs to raise the cap for all teams and raise the minimum saraly already. Waiting until the current CBA is done is stunting growth. I don't think Houston is one of the best 3 teams in the MLS right now, and their coach has shown an inability to swtich styles against opponents on the fly. They rely on a defense that has core pieces that would have trouble getting playing time on Chivas, DCU, or New England.

CACuzcatlan said...

Would Urawa be the top J-League team? I saw a documentary on the J-League and specifically Urawa Red Diamonds (its on YouTube). Soccer is the #2 spectator sport in Japan and their FA is dedicated to growing the sport. With that much support, its clear to see why the J-League is above MLS. Although I think MLS is catching up quickly.

Matt said...

I'd really like to get a look at the payrolls of the J-League teams. I've heard people say they are on par with Mexican league figures, with a number of their players making well over 1 million USD per year, but it's all just been talk, no actual figures.

briguy said...

Bare looked really strong, and I was wishing a few MLS teams had a crack at him.

The reality for me, and I'm not making any excuses here, is that we would be hard pressed to really evaluate the broader talent of all four sides given the atrocious nature of the playing conditions.

Gamba proved that they'd be very competitive on a fast, small surface. But since most top leagues don't play games in conditions that mirror the MISL, it's tough to say how truly competitive any of these teams are.

Maybe I'm missing it, but I've seen little commentary on the ridiculousness of that surface. The width of the pitch looked to be just a little greater than that of an american football field (so, probably about 60 yards wide--technically acceptable, but practically silly). And the crown and speed of the carpet was almost unplayable. I though Giants stadium was bad, but this was 100 times worse.

It really was ugly football to watch on that pitch, and I therefore reserve judgment until I can see both leagues play on something more reasonable. If anything, Gamba game-planned better than both MLS sides for both games; see the amount of through and long balls they played for proof.

argaen said...

Growing up in hawaii I got to go on to the field at aloha stadium for a huge church thing back in 94/95. It was the first time I was able to see and touch a turf field. Back then, it was clearly shit. As a young teen I couldn't understand how the rainbows would want to play on such a hard, harsh surface when all us young kids were playing on really soft grass and dirt. It must have been awful playing soccer on that mess.

Anonymous said...

I've been a fan of both leagues for the past five years, attending matches in both Japan and the US (and the K-league in Korea for that matter.) Honestly, support for J-league sides is head and shoulders better than for MLS sides. That being said, the quality of play is rather similar. There can be some amazing J-league games, followed by some games where I wanted to rip my eyes out of my sockets (just like MLS!)

As another person mentioned, there are tiers to the teams in the J-league. Over the past few years, Gamba Osaka, Urawa Reds and Kashima Antlers have been the top teams in the league, spending much more than their competitors (like my beloved Nagoya Grampus Eight), and it shows on the field. However, there is a large drop from these three to the rest of the teams in the league.

Another important note is that the J-League season starts off March 8th, so Gamba is much further along in their preseason schedule than either the LA Galaxy or Houston Dynamo are.

So to say that the J-league is better than MLS is a bit premature. What MLS needs to do though is to consider leagues like the J-League, K-League and A-League as legitimate threats and do its best to poach the best talents from these leagues (Bare anyone?)

Anonymous said...

What people also have to realize is how bad the Dynamo Defense looked. There is a reason why DC got rid of Boswell and Ianni is not considered top notch not even close. The forwards could not hold the ball, man it is going to be a rough ride for the dynamo this season. Osaka was a good team they showed that against LA, however Houston made them look like world beaters. Now if houston goes out and wins another championship (with no other additions) than we really know how good MLS is. I have watched the dynamo played mexican,costa rican teams and so forth and they always make fans respect MLS. When I saw the lineup against Sydney I was worried more so with the backline and a holding forward. The result shocked me, however sydney did not pressure houston, they let them play. Osaka did not let houston play and they just cracked.

East River said...

I think Houston gives up goals against talented attackers. Lets we forget last year's Concacaf Champions Cup semi-final on Pachauca home field. Houston lost 5-2! Yes it was early in the MLS preseason, but Houston had played 3 competitive CCC games up to then and MLS regular season games, fitness should not have been an issue. Yet the MLS Cup holders gave up 5 goals, they really couldn't stop them when they needed to.

So I'm not surprised that Houston gave up 6. Of course if it had been a competitve match they would have at least kicked Bare in the shine to slow his ass down.

Eugene said...

Houston needs to pay what it takes to get Bare. He would be the perfect forward for the team, time to splash some DP money!

papa bear said...

I watch a bunch of J-League and it is on par with MLS but just slightly different stylistically (though the last couple of years they have been becoming more similar in that regards)
You have to remember that Gamba was training in Hawaii for 2 weeks prior to the tournament compared to 4 days for Houston and Gamba is also wrapping up their pre-season whereas Houston is just beginning.
Beside that, anyone could see that Gamba had a LOT of good breaks and Houston seemingly ending up on the wrong end of theirs. (just look at the Gamba v. LA game that surely should have been a more decisive victory for proof on how that works out)
Not that Gamba didn't deserve to win, they did as they looked like they wanted it more, but the scoreline definitely belied what actually transpired on the field.

Anonymous said...

"I watch a bunch of J-League and it is on par with MLS but just slightly different stylistically (though the last couple of years they have been becoming more similar in that regards)"

The problem with the MLS being on par with the J-league is that MLS is allowed more foreign players than the J-league. So what does that say about their domestic players compared to our domestic players? They've managed to maintain a decent level of play with a very limited foreign player pool. If the MLS were allowed only 3 foreigners per team, I don't think we'd be as good as the J-league.

Nathan said...

I think the ridiculous score line can be chalked up to Ianni and Boswell alone. Had either one of them picked up Bare and actually defended him, even holding him to a goal, that puts the score at 3-1, a respectable loss. Gamba were fitter, and their passing was more precise. They just caught Houston on the break over and over, running up the score.

I think a fit Houston midfield could match up, even against their 7 missing starters. And it's no secret that the Dynamo are working out their Forward issues right now. Hopefully Caraccio will prove a quality signing.

I still think Gamba are a better team, but not 6-1 better (and how LA got away with 1-0 is the mystery of the year).

CACuzcatlan said...

The Galaxy's return to glory began in the second half of the Gamba Osaka game!!!!! Next stop, playoffs! In a year or two you'll be seeing us in the CONCACAF Champions League and eventually the Club World Cup! Galaxy FTW!

Anonymous said...

I think the score could have been 10-0 and you still wouldnt have a real answer. While Houston certainly looked good dismantling Sydney, let's not forget that it was the defense that was the issue against Gamba. Bobby Boswell has fallen so far that DC United jettisoned him... and Patrick Ianni certainly hasn't been stellar enough to challenge for playing time in the past. Let's face it, Houston had 2 slow central defenders, 1 of whom has been suffering mental lapses for the last year, trying to mark a big, fast scorer. Houston may not have as many concerns as people thought at forward... but their defense looks pretty awful without E-Rob.

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