The Full 90

Would you rather win ugly or lose pretty?

Sporting Kansas City are one of the most entertaining teams in Major League Soccer. That's not hyperbole. That's a stone-cold fact backed up by stats and video.

Kansas City seems averse to playing negatively (shutting up shop and parking 9-guys behind the ball like some smaller English clubs are fond of), un-suited for the long-ball dump-and-chase game (say, like Stoke City) and unwilling to play the standard counter-attack game that dominates MLS. And, while this approach can lead to loads of entertaining matches, it can lead to mixed results. (See also: Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Udinese, Hoffenheim, Tottenham, Blackpool, et al.)

So far for KC, it's led to a lot of goals scored (8 in just three games) and goals conceded (also 8 in just three games). For a matter of context, KC scored and allowed its 8th goal last year on May 15th. (That was the 7th game of the season and includes the FOUR goals scored in the opening game.)

The double 8s mean KC are tied for second in the league in goals scored with Colorado and one behind Vancouver (both have played one more game than KC), and are tied with DC United two behind Vancouver in goals allowed (both have played one more game than KC).

This leads to an interesting question that I think all proper soccer fans likely have a view on.

What would you rather have: A team that wins ugly or a team that loses pretty?

The best answer, of course, is to win pretty (like Barcelona). But that's not always the case (like Arsenal). An attacking team can leave itself wide-open to the counter-attack. It's worth noting, Kansas City plays in a counter-attacking league.

There is a ton of nuance in that question, and a ton of flexibility in how you answer. Before I opened this up on the blog, I asked a few of my footballing friends this exact question to gauge their response. I was mildly surprised by how pragmatic they were.

Pete Grathoff of The Kansas City Star:
Ideally, you'd like the team to do both, but if I have to choose results or style, I'll take a 1-0 win over a 4-3 loss any day (unless my team has already clinched a playoff spot before a 4-3 loss, then I'd be happy watching a great game). In 2000 (including the playoffs), the Wizards won five games by a 1-0 score and had eight scoreless draws. Most fans would argue that was the best season in franchise history, even if the team didn't play the most attractive football. That's because it ended with a 1-0 win – in the MLS Cup.
Matt Schofield of The Kansas City Star:

I'm afraid the consequences of watching Sporting continue to play soccer this entertaining are potentially very bad news. Heart attacks, hangovers, head bruises (both from slamming heads into walls after bad moments, and banging them together with a fellow fan after great moments). Of course, there are the muscle spasms from leaping from the chair when they score, and the twisted ankles when you lose concentration from the fact that the other side has matched that goal before you hit the ground.

Yes, the consequences are horrible. But I'll take them, any day. Seriously, in a soccer world without relegation, I can't see much of a downside to a season played like this. The consequence might be they give up too many goals and miss the playoffs? Well, so what? The (2000 MLS) championship team played that conservative approach because it was all they had in their toolbox. This group has so much more to offer. Now, I happen to believe they will win, a lot, playing this style. But if not, please, Sporting, show Kansas City the beautiful game at it's beautiful best.

James Starritt of The Sporting Times:

Wins first for me. I lived through 1989 and 1991 Arsenal titles and the ‘91 was an 18 goal conceded, one defeat season. That is where the “1-0 to the Arsenal” song came from. ‘89 was a blend. Now Arselona play football that is pretty and trophy-less and Chelsea and United simply win by doing what needs to be done.

Nobody who wins a title and silverware ever says it's boring, the rest of the league might ... But who cares?

Mike Kuhn of Down the Byline:
Personally I'd rather have better results. After the game on Saturday (against Vancouver) I had said that I longed for the days of Bob Gansler. I like attacking soccer, but I'd rather see a team that is fundamentally sound. With the way the team played late against Vancouver it showed multiple fundamental flaws in the team defense. In the end it comes down to that I'd rather have a team that gets the results, "winning ugly", then play attractive and suffer the consequences.

I side with Matt on this one. I'd rather see goals (on both ends) than 1-0 grind-them-out-wins. I want to be entertained first; after all, I'm paying money to watch a sporting event. Of course, that's easy for me to say, I'm a Manchester United fan.

How say you? Would you rather see Kansas City get results with a less entertaining brand of football? Or would you like to see them go for it and get what results they get?

  Comments