From the Community: Diving is Good, Why FC Cincinnati Should Embrace the Dark Arts
I think we all know the incident that has everyone on r/MLS and half the MLS personalities on Twitter angry. Lucho Acosta, our club captain, …being brutally attacked by an Atlanta United player last week. Or, if you prefer to see it another way, as everyone’s favorite Taylor “What are we doing!” Twellman did: falling down, without being touched.
I have generally mixed feelings on this specific incident, considering, on one hand, my general distaste for r/MLS users as well as my blatant homerism and good feeling for Acosta after that beautiful goal he scored immediately afterwards, contrasted with… actually nothing. There’s nothing I don’t like about this.
Let’s clear up some things. Diving is good. Simulation is bad. What’s the difference? Simulation is actually a word in the Laws of the Game, the IFAB document which determines what PRO referees call in our games. (Or at least, are supposed to call. I’m not them.) Law 12 states: “There are different circumstances when a player must be cautioned for unsporting behaviour including if a player: attempts to deceive the referee e.g. by feigning injury or pretending to have been fouled (simulation)”.
Now, these rules are vague for a reason - so that they’re open to interpretation on the field rather than strict, unquestioning adherence - but the most important thing to note is that this seems to have no connection to the average American sports fan’s idea of what simulation actually is. Hot take merchants all across this country saw England’s Raheem Sterling being fouled (and falling down) in the penalty area during a game against Denmark in the recent Euros, and yelled angrily “This is why I hate soccer!” and “He should get a red card for that!”. Yes, Sterling probably dove - an action I personally define as “going down until limited contact which still constitutes a foul” - but he didn’t commit simulation.
Again: simulation? Bad. But diving, now? There’s a few points why it’s something we should be doing more.
The referees suck
With how the modern game is refereed and played, it’s almost a requirement. Players like Romelu Lukaku (go watch what Palhinha did to him when Belgium played Portugal, yeesh) and our very own Yuya Kubo have reputations for playing through contact and staying on the ball - and not getting calls as a result. Kubo’s only been fouled 11 times this season. Acosta’s been fouled 31, Allan Cruz 19 times. It works.
Deception is entertainment
We literally have an entire profession of people whose entire job is deceiving you, me, and everyone else - they’re called magicians. Magicians are cool, magic tricks are cool, and yet Alvaro Barreal falling down to earn a penalty after getting hit on the leg somehow isn’t? I don’t believe that. Also, this kind of deception gets us free kicks in dangerous positions, and that’s even more payoff than just walking home from middle school slightly less bored than usual.
It’s not cheating
It’s not. There’s way too many people who use steroids in professional sports for diving to count under the same banner.
We’ve already used free kicks to our advantage this season. We’ve got, what, 6 points from it, from the Montreal and Chicago games? That’s almost half our points. Acosta’s the 10th most fouled player in the league, with an average of 2.82 fouls drawn per 90 (per FBRef) putting him in the 92nd percentile of his peers in MLS. Now, some of that is due to his “I’m always on the ball, always touching it, all the time” attacking role in our system, but drawing fouls (and getting calls) is absolutely a skill Lucho excels at.
If supporting the idea of Isaac Atanga flapping his arms like he’s trying to take flight after being kicked in the leg isn’t painful enough for American sports snobs, I’ll wrap this up by throwing out some other things Jaap Stam could do or train our guys to do (or at least the 13 guys who he uses every matchday):
Insult other players’ mothers, in their native language
We have plenty of Spanish and Dutch-speaking players, and Brenner for Portuguese - that should cover a lot of the league, and we can learn a few words and phrases for facing other foreign players easily enough.
Spying a bit, maybe
If Marcelo Bielsa does it, it’s probably somewhat useful. He’s a good manager.
Tactically foul (but like, less blatantly)
We’ve finally learned how to tactically foul (much to the chagrin of now-former Toronto head coach Chris Armas, lol), but we still seem to like accumulating yellow cards like they’re the little paper crowns from Burger King kids meals. As we’re reaching the point in the season where it begins to catch up with us (Kubo, with his impressive ability to seemingly get a card every time he steps on the pitch, missed the Atlanta game due to yellow card accumulation), our guys should boldly go where many teams have gone in the past and get slightly closer to the ball when tactically taking a man down (and not get angry with the referee afterwards, because dissent is also a thing).
I can’t wait to see another river of burning hot takes from random MLS personalities and Reddit commenters if any of these things happen.