October 31, 2016
MLS, TV score an own goal or two on semifinals 2nd leg schedule
By Michael Lewis
Metro soccer fans will have to choose whether they will watch Bradley Wright-Phillips and the Red Bulls Sunday or New York City FC when both playoff games are in the area.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
The only way metropolitan area soccer fans will be able to see the two area Major League Soccer teams in person in playoff games next Sunday will be if they have a transporter like they have in Star Trek.
And because there is no such thing, local fans won't be able to partake in the historic day when the Red Bulls and New York City FC both host playoff matches the same day.
Before going any further, I'll come clean. I am biased with my own self interests. Like many soccer journalists in the metropolitan area who have covered both teams, I was looking forward to attending and writing about both matches.
Logic would have separated both matches with another game between the two Hudson River Derby rivals.
But soccer doesn't always necessarily follow logic, does it?
Instead, we have a Western Conference semifinal second leg between the Colorado Rapids and LA Galaxy that kicks off at 2 p.m. ET (noon MT).
We have the Red Bulls and Montreal Impact playing at Red Bull Arena at 4 p.m. ET.
Then we have New York City FC and Toronto FC tussling at 6:30 p.m. ET.
And finally, we have FC Dallas facing the Seattle Sounders at 9 p.m. ET.
This would be my schedule:
* 2 p.m. -- Red Bulls vs. Montreal Impact
* 4 p.m. -- FC Dallas vs. Seattle Sounders
* 6:30 p.m. -- NYC FC vs. Toronto FC
* 9 p.m. -- Colorado Rapids vs. the LA Galaxy
Or you could switch the times of the Red Bulls and NYC FC matches. It really doesn't matter.
In wake of the Sounders' 3-0 victory over Dallas, the second leg is potentially the "weakest" confrontation. Instead, it is put in prime time. The Rapids-Galaxy encounter deserves the 9 p.m. spot. On paper, it is the sexier match-up. Only one goal separates the team -- LA won the first leg Sunday, 1-0, and the Galaxy have a whole host of standout players and big-time names, including Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard, Giovani dos Santos and Landon Donovan.
The question I have for MLS is:
Why were the two New York games scheduled back-to-back instead of a few hours apart to give fans and media a chance to pull off a rare (and perhaps a once-in-lifetime opportunity) to attend both confrontations?
It just doesn't make sense.
While soccer and the interest in the sport has grown by leaps and bounds with the addition of NYC FC in 2015, many media outlets in the area still have only one writer covering both teams. Yours truly, for example, has covered more than 40 games betwen the Red Bulls, City and the Cosmos for this website and a newspaper.
MLS is supposed to be finding ways to promote soccer, not hinder it.
Throw in a post-game press conference and time in the locker room, trying to go from one venue to another in that short amount of time is impossible.
You don't have to be a rocket scientist (again, wish we had a transporter) to realize who helped make the decision.
You only have to read the opening paragraph of the official MLS press release that I received at 12:35 a.m. ET:
NEW YORK, NY (October 31, 2016) – Major League Soccer, in conjunction with its national broadcast partners, tonight announced the schedule for the second legs of the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs Conference Semifinals, to be played on Sunday, November 6. All four match times have shifted one hour earlier than previously listed, with the first match of the day kicking off at 2 p.m. ET.
The key phrase was: "Major League Soccer, in conjunction with its national broadcast partners ..."
Those partners are ESPN and Fox Sports.
Like it or not, TV seemingly always has the final word.
But quite frankly, I don't like it in this instance.
Like many other writers and perhaps some fans, I will have to make a decision as to which game to cover next Sunday.
Also, other writers will have a choice to make: which team to cover: the Red Bulls or NYC FC.
Whatever decision I make, I won't like it. I fear I will be missing out on something special.