By J Hutcherson – WASHINGTON, DC (Apr 12, 2012) US Soccer Players — In a follow-up to yesterday's column on the scenarios facing several National Teamers Abroad clubs, it's easy enough to pick one-day winners, losers, and open questions without it having a whole lot of meaning. In the Bundesliga, Hannover 96 took advantage while Schalke 04 didn't. Jozy Altidore's goals were the difference in a point instead of none, but AZ has to win games to have a chance of catching up with a team as on form as Ajax. Were any of their seasons decided on April 11th? It depends on how you look at it.
Right now, the two most important things for these clubs is strength of schedule and goal difference. One is completely out of a club's control. If the club in front of you has a superior goal differential in the double digits, for all practical purposes that's also out of your control. When the schedule favors your club and goal difference is still in play, that's an undeniable advantage. When a club fails to take that advantage, that's a serious problem.
Schalke's lopsided loss was a surprise, and it would take a lot to play it any other way than a major disappointment. That said, they weren't going to catch Bayern Munich on points over one game and goal difference so heavily favored Bayern before Wednesday's game that it wasn't a concern. Schalke still has a buffer between 3rd and 4th, and it would take another loss to really put their league position in jeopardy. With that in mind, we're back to strength of schedule. Schalke play Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund on Saturday. Not an easy assignment, though BVB haven't exactly been sweeping aside all comers week-to-week.
It gets significantly easier for Schalke, with Augsburg, Hertha Berlin, and Werder Bremen waiting after Borussia Dortmund. The expectation should be seven points, more than likely enough to keep Schalke where they are in the table.
Joe, who was kind enough to let me know he's in Geneva, Wisconsin, wanted to ask about the Scottish Premier League.
I'm interested in the SPL now that I can see it on television. It's odd that Fox Soccer got the rights so late in the season, but I've been intrigued by what I've seen so far. How would you compare it to Major League Soccer in general and if you left out Celtic and Rangers and New York and LA?
There's an iPhone app that lets you subscribe to Rangers games the day after they're played. I got that at the start of the season when they signed Carlos Bocanegra and Alejandro Bedoya, so I've had a steady diet of SPL games. It's a skewed perception since it's only Rangers games. Without seeing complete games of the non-Old Firm clubs playing each other, it's tough to call.
I like the idea of the Scottish Premier League, but in practice I don't think it's a noticeably better brand of soccer than MLS. I see what you're saying with dropping the teams spending more than the rest from the conversation, but again I haven't seen enough to be able to really make a meaningful comparison.
That said, I don't think any MLS coach would be surprised to see how the rest of the SPL play Rangers and Celtic. More often than not, it's that disruptive style of play we see every week in MLS. Thanks for the email.
A nameless hotmail account wrote asking about the European clubs on tour in the USA this summer.
I'm interested in perhaps planning a vacation around a game but I don't have enough information to make a good decision. Why aren't these games known sooner so people can check their schedule and make them a destination?
I'm with you, nameless hotmail account.
Finally, Eric – a regular commenter – asked about last week's story on MLS moving on from bad results.
Though I get what you're saying, what other choice do they have? They can't slow down the momentum of the regular season to deep dive into what happened with one team in a secondary competition. I know we're supposed to treat the Champions League with seriousness, but it's not there yet. I'm much more concerned with having entertaining MLS games rather than seeing how MLS teams match with other CONCACAF teams or the European clubs in preseason tour mode. Though I don't think being competitive at Champions League level and putting on entertaining regular season games are mutually exclusive, I'm also not sure one necessarily has to lead to the other.
That's a reasonable point. My main concern is that what the CONCACAF Champions League performances show is a League standing still. MLS is growing in terms of teams, but the influx of players and new takes on what it means to be an MLS club aren't necessarily improving the quality. With that in mind, I might be the only person not overly wowed by what Sporting Kansas City is doing.
Comments, questions, solutions to problems that have yet to present themselves. Please, tell me all about it.
More from J Hutcherson: