Major League Soccer Sees Spike in Number of Ties

D.C. United's Santino Quaranta, right, is congratulated by his teammates after scoring the tying goal against Chivas USA, one of United's seven draws.
D.C. United's Santino Quaranta, right, is congratulated by his teammates after scoring the tying goal against Chivas USA, one of United's seven draws. (By Branimir Kvartuc -- Associated Press)
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By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 28, 2009

In a 16-hour span at the same location a couple weekends ago, MLS experienced the best and worst possible endings to a pair of matches.

On a Saturday night at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., D.C. United roared back from a two-goal deficit in the last 13-plus minutes against the league's top team, Chivas USA, to earn a 2-2 tie. The following afternoon, the Galaxy drew even in the final moments on Eddie Lewis's spectacular goal against Columbus for a 1-1 draw.

Two terrific finishes, two deadlocks.

MLS will warmly welcome more dramatic conclusions, but it has had its fill of ties.

Through the first third of the regular season (76 of 225 games), a glaring 40.8 percent of MLS matches failed to decide a winner. Last year the share of ties was 27.1 percent, and in some of Europe's major circuits this season, the range was 21.6 percent to 25.6 percent.

The Chicago Fire leads the Eastern Conference with an undefeated record, but six of its 10 games have been ties. The Galaxy has lost just once in 10 outings but has settled for eight draws. D.C. United (3-1-7) has played four consecutive stalemates in its MLS games, equaling last season's total during a 30-game schedule, and is on pace to shatter the club record (10) set three years ago.

Only four of MLS's 15 clubs have more victories than ties, and in the past three weeks, 14 of 24 matches have rendered no winner.

"It usually evens itself out" by the end of the season, United Coach Tom Soehn said. However, "I keep saying that every week, and we keep getting ties."

Not all ties are created equal, though. While there have been three scoreless draws, most recently last Saturday at RFK Stadium between United and Real Salt Lake, as well as a few uninspiring games in which both teams seemed content with the result, there also have been a number of stirring finishes that just happened to end with even scores.

In addition to the consecutive thrillers at Home Depot Center on May 16-17, 14 ties were the result of goals scored in the 80th minute or beyond. Only Seattle has avoided such drama. The wildest game unfolded on May 6, when Los Angeles and Real Salt Lake combined for three goals in added time of a 2-2 tie.

United has been on both ends of it, conceding two goals in the last 10 minutes of the season opener at Los Angeles and scoring in added time against both New England and Toronto.

Players and coaches cite various reasons for the wave of ties. Unlike prominent soccer leagues around the world, where the scores and standings are a reflection of the disparity in club resources, MLS has a salary cap that cultivates parity. "The ties are a product of the competition and balance in the league," United defender Bryan Namoff said. "The gap between first and last is not very big."

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