16 April 2014

Day 2 broadcast comes through with smiles, jubilation in dramatic finish

After a brutally cold first day and a 0-0 game (albeit an entertaining one), we got great weather on Tuesday and a remarkable game to broadcast. Here's my Day 2 recap for MLSsoccer.com.

Real Salt Lake and Stoke City had been two of the more impressive teams on the opening day of the tournament, and they were pitted against each other on Tuesday. Stoke, however, only had 13 players (which meant only one field-player substitute) due to a red-card suspension. Real Salt Lake, meanwhile, had vocal support in the crowd from a Layton, Utah-based youth club that has produced several players on the RSL Academy roster.

Stoke scored early, but Real Salt Lake controlled much of the first half. RSL head coach Martín Vásquez told his players at halftime that they were affording Stoke too much space, and RSL came out possessed in the second half. They tied the score and dominated the entire half, but when Stoke scored following a free kick in the final minute of regulation, it looked like curtains.

There were several minutes of stoppage time, however, and Salt Lake scored a dramatic tying goal with what turned out to be the last kick of regulation in the third minute of stoppage time! The goal really saved their chances of winning the tournament; otherwise Stoke City would have controlled its own path to the final.

Instead, Real Salt Lake won the shootout to earn an extra point in the standings and provide a memorable ending to our broadcast! After we had tearful injuries on Monday's show, I hoped we would get some jubilation on our next broadcast, and we certainly did.

Here's the full archive of the game -- the frantic finish starts around the 1:24:55 mark:

15 April 2014

Shivering, sniffling through opening-night broadcast at the MLS U-17 championship

Our setup on Monday night
You would think Dallas in late April would be pretty warm, but the weather on Monday at the 2014 Generation adidas Cup was anything but welcoming. With temperatures in the 40s and dropping into the 30s at night (which, of course, included our live broadcast under a full moon), and a strong wind whipping across the exposed complex all day long, everybody on hand was talking about how cold it was.

The broadcast must go on, of course, so at 8 p.m. CT I stepped onto a small podium near the bench of the San Jose Earthquakes U-17 team and called their game against the Chivas Guadalajara U17s. Coaches and kids from both teams were staying at our hotel, so that made it easier than normal to prepare for the game, but there were still a few challenges. For example, Chivas wears thin, navy blue numbers (often in the triple digits) on a background of red and white stripes, which is virtually impossible to see more than 40 yards away. We also did not have replay capabilities on Monday, although we hope to show replays later in the tournament.

The game itself, despite being the only 0-0 tie of the day in the tournament's championship division (my full Day 1 recap is available here), was pretty compelling. Less than three minutes in, we had the heartbreaking site of a San Jose player in tears after suffering an injury and being helped off the field by his teammates. Whatever the injury, you could see the anguish on the kid's face. Luckily, when I checked at halftime, the injury turned out not to be the complete ruptured Achilles the player had feared it to be.

After San Jose dominated the game in terms of scoring chances but was consistently denied by the Chivas goalkeeper, the Mexican club won in a very well-executed shootout, as the teams combined to score on nine of their 10 penalty kicks. One Chivas player had been injured late in the game, after the club had run out of substitutions. So he remained with his team in the center circle for the shootout, then was carried off in tears by a teammate.

While you obviously hope both kids are OK and get to play again in the tournament, it's not every day you call a game book-ended with that kind of emotion. Hopefully we get more elation than anything else throughout the remaining games!

Here's the full archive of the game:

14 April 2014

Set to broadcast six U-17 soccer games at Generation adidas Cup

Quick post - just arrived in the Dallas-Fort Worth MetroPlex on Sunday for a week of broadcasting soccer games for MLSsoccer.com. I'll be calling six games in the Generation adidas Cup, which is the U-17 championship of Major League Soccer. Nine teams qualified for the final around, joined by three international clubs.

Here's a brief preview article I put together for MLSsoccer.com.

The weather conditions are cold and windy, at least for April in Texas, and since we're not working in a stadium with infrastructure but on equipment we set up, there may be some exciting stories ahead!

03 April 2014

Talking in the Rain: Calling 2014's USL PRO vs. MLS Reserve League opener

One week after hosting a pregame show for the New York Red Bulls first team, I got to call play-by-play for the Red Bulls Reserves on Sunday, as they played the Dayton Dutch Lions in a crossover game that counted in the standings both for Dayton in USL PRO (the third division of American soccer) and in the MLS Reserve League (now in its final season as teams integrate with USL PRO, either via affiliation or by fielding their own minor-league team).

This particular reserve game took place at 25,000-seat Red Bull Arena, kicking off one hour after the Red Bulls' regular game against Chivas USA. By the time it kicked off, in the rain, there were not a whole lot of people in the building, and I was working the game solo. So it presented some challenges.

But I had researched Dayton as thoroughly as possible, talking to a Columbus Crew coach who gave insight on the seven players his club had loaned to Dayton and to the head coaches of both Dayton and the Red Bulls Reserves before the game. So I knew the players and personnel and had a great time calling the game:

Looking back, I'm frustrated at myself for losing focus on the plays in the second half that led to New York's goals (particularly the set pieces) and will be alert to that moving forward. But it's always good to be in a play-by-play setting, and hopefully there is more to come!

Dayton Dutch Lions (0-1) vs. New York Red Bulls Reserves (1-1)
March 30, 2014 -- Red Bull Arena, Harrison, NJ
USL PRO / MLS Reserve League

Scoring Summary:
NY -- Michael Bustamante 1 (Connor Lade 1, Eric Stevenson 1) 51
NY -- Eric Stevenson 1 (Marius Obekop 2, Arun Basuljevic 1) 61
NY -- Matt Miazga 1 (Eric Stevenson 2) 66

Dayton Dutch Lions -- Matt Williams, Taylor Bowlin (Ross Friedman 70), Brock Granger, Kevan George, Shane Smith, Shintaro Harada, Sebastien Thurière (Fifi Baiden 64), Eddie Hertsenberg (Aaron Schoenfeld 53), Cameron Vickers (Joe Broekhuizen 70), Ryan Finley (Matt Walker 64), Eli Garner.
Substitutes Not Used: Brad Stuver, Eric Kissinger.

New York Red Bulls Reserves -- Ryan Meara, Chris Duvall, Matt Miazga, Kevin Politz (Brandon Tetro 76), Ambroise Oyongo, Connor Lade, Eric Stevenson, Michael Bustamante, Arun Basuljevic (Malcolm Dixon 86), Chris Lema, Marius Obekop.
Substitutes Not Used: Santiago Castaño.

Misconduct Summary:
DAY -- Shintaro Harada (caution) 47
DAY -- Fifi Baiden (caution) 74
DAY -- Aaron Schoenfeld (caution) 88

Referee: Robert Sibiga
Referee's Assistants: T.J. Zablocki; Zeno Cho
Fourth Official: Ashraf Kamel

Weather: Rain-and-46 degrees
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial

24 March 2014

Making my MSG debut and trying to stay warm at the same time

I was nervous before working on the MSG Network for the first time. But that wasn’t the reason I felt like I was shaking shortly before we went on air with Red Bulls GameNight on Sunday afternoon.

No, any trembles were due to the extreme cold, as the game was played just outside of Chicago on a day with windchill temperatures in the low 20s. The cold was also responsible for my eyes watering, my nose running, and a general loss of feeling in my ears and hands. And that was all in the first segment!

But in all seriousness, I really enjoyed my first time hosting the pre-game show for MSG’s coverage of the Red Bulls. I worked with a great crew that consistently puts together one of the best broadcasts in MLS, and I got to share the airwaves with two legends of American soccer broadcasting in play-by-play announcer JP Dellacamera (like me, a fill-in for the game; not like me, a veteran of the show) and color analyst Shep Messing (who welcomed me by calling me “rookie” the entire weekend.) My first game as an intern in professional sports, back in 2002, saw me work as a spotter for that duo on an MSG broadcast of a MetroStars game at Giants Stadium, so I really felt fortunate to work with them as a colleague 12 years later.

I really was nervous during the week leading up to the game. Working on a broadcast for the first time is a real challenge, no matter how good all the components are, because you don’t have a sense of each other’s rhythm and exactly how things operate. On a first show working together, you spend a lot of energy concentrating and thinking about the logistics of the broadcast (i.e. what’s coming next, how long your countdown is until the next commercial, which elements are sponsored), rather than focusing on some higher-level concerns.

So I spent the week not only researching the Red Bulls and their opponent, the Chicago Fire, but watching tapes of prior editions of Red Bulls GameNight with the regular host, Tina Cervasio, and studying the rundown to plan how I would transition from point to point. I also worried extensively about the weather, which called for a really cold day but, thankfully, no precipitation. When I woke up early on Sunday morning and saw snow on the ground, it did nothing to calm those nerves!

But the light snow had come in from the lake and did not carry to Bridgeview, where the stadium is, so the day turned out to be clear. As for the cold, I literally wore three pairs of socks and three different shirts under my collared shirt and my overcoat to try and stay warm. I had gloves and a hat, too, but tried not to use them often. The gloves did make an impromptu appearance on my post-game interview with Dax McCarty (at right).

It was an easy group to step in and work with for the game, and I had a great time doing it. With the pre-game show set to start at 1:30 p.m. Central Time, we had an 11 a.m. meeting, and I talked to coaches from both teams around 12:15 p.m. From there, it seemed like almost no time had passed before the truck was counting me down to start the pre-game show, and I really didn’t have time to think about being nervous.

The show went well, and it was great to know that my parents, family, and friends back in New Jersey could watch the game on regular television, rather than trying to wrangle something via the internet. As normal as watching online is nowadays, there was something cool about my parents being able to flip on their TV and see my ugly mug.

We had a few hiccups – the halftime interview was canceled abruptly when we realized the designated camera operator had not made it on the scene; I initially introduced Philadelphia-Columbus highlights as "first-half highlights" before correcting myself; and you can clearly see my earpiece during the post-game interview with New York head coach Mike Petke, a result of switching sides so that Mike would be properly lit. All things we dealt with swiftly and, I felt, competently.

All in all, a really fun trip to Chicago and chance to work a game for a network I’ve watched since I was a kid. Hopefully we get to do it again some day, and hopefully it will be a lot warmer!

05 February 2014

Soccer's back already? Escaping New York for MLS preseason in Florida

The snow just keeps coming in New York this winter, only my third in the Northeast in the last 13 years, so I was only too glad (and very lucky) to escape to Florida on Tuesday to cover some Major League Soccer preseason action.

Going from this:

to this:

certainly brightens your day, even if that day starts at 5 a.m. on about three hours' sleep.

At any rate, I'm working with MLSsoccer.com as part of its preseason coverage, and on Wednesday night we'll offer one of the best preseason matchups you could ask for: D.C. United vs. Toronto FC (7 p.m. ET, MLSsoccer.com). It sounds a little strange, given that those teams finished last and second-to-last in the Eastern Conference last year. But these are teams in the midst of big-time makeovers, and being the first to get a look at the new groups is exciting. Even if those groups are still assembling.

We'll also cover the Columbus Crew's first game under new head coach Gregg Berhalter when they take on Swedish champion Malmö at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, and I'm excited to get a first look at the new Crew.

Here's a pre-game look from each perspective:
Columbus Crew website
Toronto FC website
D.C. United via Washington Post

The new IMG Stadium seems like a good preseason venue,
even if it does have a track.
The Toronto-D.C. game stands out because there are SO many new faces on each side. Well, not NEW faces, exactly - familiar faces in new places:

D.C. United brought in seven MLS veterans in the offseason and could probably start six of them at some point (three are center backs). The cast of characters has plenty of talent and could instantly put D.C. back in the playoff hunt. Why don't more teams re-build this way? It's expensive, since D.C. acquired several players through the re-entry process, but a double dose of allocation money (for missing the playoffs AND for reaching the CONCACAF Champions League) sure helps. One of those new guys is defender Bobby Boswell, who began his career with D.C. from 2005-07 and who I consider a friend after working together for four years in Houston. It was great to see him on Tuesday and catch up on his busy offseason, including the birth of his second son, Nash, last month.

Another former Houston friend in town is Dwayne De Rosario, who went from D.C. United to one of his old clubs, Toronto FC, in the offseason. Yet De Ro - always entertaining and still as confident as ever - is one of the lower-profile acquisitions by free-spending Toronto FC, which brought in seven new signings of its own, including the high-priced trio of England international Jermain Defoe, U.S. international Michael Bradley, and Brazilian forward Gilberto.

MLSsoccer.com's Samantha Yarock sat down with Toronto FC on Tuesday, and I listened in on some very entertaining interviews. Among the lines of the day were Ryan Nelsen saying "a hardened MLS player is gold dust for me" and De Ro pointing out that one of his fingers is feeling lonely right now (he has four MLS Cup championship rings).

It's all got me ready for my first MLS action of 2014 on Wednesday at the IMG Stadium here in Bradenton!

09 January 2014

Broadcasting in pictures, 2013

The most important things that happened to me in 2013 had nothing to do with broadcasting. A really special day in the summer kind of made the year, and there were a lot of great things sprinkled in throughout. Big changes, too.

Looking back on the broadcasting side, as I always say, I could have been busier, but it was still a good year and one that took me all over the place. I worked with more partners, producers, and crews than I can really keep track of, and I had a blast doing it.

Here's a look back at my broadcasting year in pictures:
Tucson, Arizona - February 2013

Grand Prairie, Texas - May 2013

Major League Soccer - Summer 2013

Major League Soccer - Fall 2013

NCAA basketball - Fall 2013