31 May 2012

Where's your varsity? Strong/weak USOC lineups

Philadelphia fans were treated to a relatively boring game;
other MLS fans were not so lucky.
MLS teams struggled in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup this week, with only eight of 16 teams advancing despite facing teams from lower division of American soccer. The most common assumption is that this occurs because MLS teams, to be blunt, don’t care about the tournament. In that vein, the most talked about man of this round of the tournament, Cal FC manager Eric Wynalda, proclaimed via Twitter: “the MLS teams that played a starting lineup- won. Those who didn't, lost.” This supports the common thinking: MLS teams don’t care about the tournament and use reserve-laden lineups with less experience, less talent, and less cohesion than the normal squad and less motivation than the opponent.

From there, I see two main reasons as to why MLS reserves struggle to beat minor-league starters:
  1. MLS teams’ depth sometimes fails to match up with minor-league clubs because, if a club spends big on its starters, the remaining players may have been selected as much on dollar value as on talent.
  2. More likely, the reserves are still more talented and often carry play, but they lack the decisive technical quality to take advantage of their dominance. You can see this in the number of games where MLS teams, even with reserves, post heavy shot and possession advantages against minor-league opposition but fail to advance.
Wynalda made his statement one night before his amateur club stunned the Portland Timbers – fielding a virtually full-strength lineup – on Wednesday night, but it still got me thinking. So I decided to take some data and see how accurate the statement was this year. My results are after the jump ...

23 May 2012

Sitting with Mr. Jazic

I planned to post about our May 19 broadcast, which I was really pleased with, but instead I took a couple of days’ vacation at my parents’ house in North Jersey. We went to the Red Bulls-Chivas USA game tonight, and I want to tell you about our seats. Or, more accurately, the people sitting near our seats.

We were fortunate enough to be guests of the Red Bulls on this night, enjoying seats in the lower level. As I informed my parents of the various storylines in the game: Juan Pablo Ángel’s history with the club, Thierry Henry’s pedigree, Rafa Marquez’s reputation, and the recent trade, I could tell the gentleman in front of me was listening in. As the game went on, it became clear he and his wife were emotionally invested in Chivas USA for a pretty good reason.

After a hilarious visit to adjacent seats from some of Juan Agudelo’s family, still getting used to Chivas USA colors, I guessed the original couple in front of us was Dan Kennedy’s parents, because they seemed so focused on the defense. But after Chivas scored in the second half, the man stood up to cheer and encourage the Chivas players celebrating right in front of us, then turned around and apologized by explaining his connection to the team: They were actually the parents of Chivas left back Ante Jazic.

As the second half continued, Mr. Jazic talked to us a bit, and it provided a really different perspective than you typically get. Sitting with a player’s parents, every play by that individual is magnified. The parents perk up, raise their camera if they're into photography, and stop everything else to watch the play. Take the focus you would have watching an American playing in Europe or a player from your alma mater making his debut. Then multiply that by a few million hours of parenting. That gives you a bit of an idea. Ante Jazic is 36 years old, his father told us more than once, and he has played hundreds of games in more than a dozen countries. Yet for this fairly average, regular-season, mid-week game, Mr. Jazic was still lifting up out of his seat with excitement when Ante had a chance to cross from the left, and he was crestfallen when Dane Richards snuck behind Ante to set up New York’s tying goal.

Having called several games that included Jazic over the years, I could not resist asking Mr. Jazic how the family name should be pronounced. After all, it looks and sounds Serbo-Croatian, but the pronunciation has always been listed as a very North American-sounding ‘JAZZ-ick’ in every pronunciation guide I’ve seen. A Canadian-Croatian, Mr. Jazic quickly confirmed that it should be pronounced ‘YAH-zich,’ but after all this time in Canada, he said it is OK to say ‘JAZZ-ick.’ Still, having heard it directly from Ante’s father’s mouth, I think I’m going to go with ‘YAH-zich’ when Dallas plays Chivas USA in October.

Throughout the second half, Mr. Jazic shared some other good tidbits concerning the pressure-packed environment of Ante’s early days at famed Hajduk Split in Croatia and told us a bit about his career with the Canadian national team. But most of all, he rooted for Chivas to pull out the result. On the field, his son recovered well from the goal, using his experience and positioning to limit the speedy Richards the rest of the way. He even made a key goal-line clearance in the 83rd minute. In the stands, Mr. Jazic celebrated the Chivas goal and rooted for the final whistle. It brought joy and relief, another positive result for his son.

Players are players, and we judge them on their attributes and performances. But they all have families and support systems, traveling the country or staying online late to watch their sons with pride. I was glad to see that pride first-hand on Wednesday, and one has to admire those contributing to the often untold back stories throughout Major League Soccer.

10 May 2012

Looking back: May 9 Dallas-Seattle broadcast

So I finished off a frenetic stretch of games, by my standards at least, with the FC Dallas home game against the Seattle Sounders last night. It was my fifth Dallas game in 19 days, which of course is far more taxing for the players than for me!

We knew both teams would be making a lot of lineup changes – Dallas because of injuries and suspension, Seattle because of its own busy schedule – so I had to make sure I studied everybody thoroughly. I was able to go to the open portions of both teams’ training sessions on Tuesday, which were not as helpful as if the practices had been open, but still something that let me take decent guesses at both teams’ lineups.

Ian Joy was my partner on Wednesday, and we got to call a game together from the stadium for the first time, rather than off a monitor. As we have in the past, I thought we worked well together. We had plenty of time before the game to work with the producers and font coordinators in the TV truck to go over the footage and graphics prepared for the game. We go over these before any game, but this felt more comprehensive and less rushed, and I think it helped us lead into those pieces of content during the broadcast.

For instance, we had video soundbytes of Andrew Jacobson talking about his partnership with James Marcelin and of Scott Sealy talking about testing young Seattle goalkeeper Bryan Meredith. So when those talking points came up during the game, we were able to work those in pretty seamlessly. I had talked with both Jacobson and Marcelin the day before and felt it was an especially effective point. In those conversations, I had asked Marcelin if his name should be pronounced mar-suh-lan, as it would be in French, and he confirmed it. Which meant I had to talk Ian out of the old mar-suh-leen pronounciation he had learned while playing with James in Portland. I think it may take a little while for mar-suh-lan to catch on, but that’s the correct way to say it.

As has become normal for Ian and me, we had a last-second lineup change, as Patrick Ianni pulled out with a recurring back injury shortly before kickoff, but Jeff Parke was an able – and ultimately very important – substitution. But more importantly in our open, I felt we hit the important points right away - FC Dallas playing so shorthanded and Mauro Rosales being the key man in the Seattle lineup - and set the stage well for the game. Once it started, the first half was one of the most entertaining halves I’ve called this year, with chances at both ends.

The play of the game came from Meredith - making just his second career MLS start - late in the first half, as he stretched to his right to tip away a Sealy header. For only the second time this year, we had a high end-zone camera behind that goal, one of my favorite angles, and it provided a great look at that play. It even made SportsCenter later that night, although unfortunately without the audio! In all seriousness, I was proud that I called, "Oh, what a save!" in real time and instantly identified it as "the play of the game." You can't always get those right, but I thought we were on top of that one right away.

The game turned in the second half, with Seattle shoring up its defensive midfield shape and bringing on the almost-always lethal Fredy Montero. I had a note to myself that whenever Montero goes at least five games without scoring, he almost always goes on a multi-game tear once he finally gets on the scoreboard. After scoring twice against Dallas, he has three goals and an assist in the last three games, so the Western Conference may be in trouble if he keeps going.

The only thing I really regretted from the broadcast (aside from my allergies forcing excessive use of the ‘cough’ button) was that I was reading a promo during the buildup to Seattle’s second goal. It was fairly unavoidable – we started the read during a throw-in near midfield – and I got out of it as soon as I realized there was a scoring chance, but it’s never fun to have that show up on highlights.

Other than that, it was probably the best broadcast I’ve worked on this year. Credit to Ian for livening things up when the game hit a bit of a lull in the second half, and I was also glad that we were able to talk about some of the positives for Dallas, like Matt Hedges’ debut at center back and the Jacobson/Marcelin partnership in the midfield.

After the game, Ian and I went down to the River Club for the Dallas soccer post-game experience. I got to catch up with Steve Davis and Mark Followill, who were both at the game, and meet Daniel Robertson of BigDSoccer.com for the first time. I’ve got one more game this month – Dallas-Philadelphia on May 19 – and am looking forward to being back.

May 9 video: FCD-SEA

From last night's Dallas-Seattle game, here are the post-game highlights from MLS:

and the online wrap-up Ian and I did for FOXSportsSouthwest.com:

07 May 2012

Looking back: May 6 Dallas-Colorado broadcast

I'm in the midst of another five-day stay in north Texas calling two games for FC Dallas, the first of which was last night, a 2-0 Colorado Rapids win. Here are some thoughts on the broadcast and the game:

May 6 – FS Southwest – FC Dallas vs. Colorado Rapids
This proved to be a tough game to handle because of what happened on the field: FC Dallas had two players sent off in the first half, leaving them with nine for the rest of the game, and Colorado cruised to a 2-0 win. I’m not making excuses, but it can be tough to keep a broadcast exciting when the shot margin is 23-1, the go-ahead goal comes early in the second half, and the home team is on the losing end.

Oddly enough, of the now seven regular-season games I’ve called on TV, this was the second one I’ve called in which the home team saw two red cards. Last July, Houston (already with a 1-0 lead) got two red cards early in the second half, eventually holding on for a tie against Kansas City. While the tactics (4-4-0 formation, dump-and-don’t-chase strategy) were similar, Dallas really didn’t have much of a chance to match that result.

Brian Dunseth and I worked together on this game, our second game together, and we had a lot of storylines to talk about. Our tease and first talking point were both focused on the return of Oscar Pareja, a long-time Dallas player and coach, as the head coach of the Rapids. We ended up a little short on time, and I had an unusually tough time writing my copy for the tease, but I thought it came off pretty well in the end.

One storyline we didn’t address in the open and perhaps should have was the status of Brek Shea. We had heard informally from local media that Shea had not trained fully and was dealing with turf toe, but the secret was jealously guarded – we met with Schellas Hyndman 15 minutes before lineups were due and still were not told – so we planned the show without knowing. In retrospect, that maybe should have been our second point after Pareja. On the other hand, Brian’s focus on the versatility of Jackson turned out to be a perfect set-up for later in the night, since Jackson played several spots to help Dallas cope with its disadvantage. The uncertainty of the situation showed in our lineup, which listed FCD in a 4-4-2, even though they eventually came out in a 4-2-3-1. Predicting the Dallas lineup this year has not been easy.

Another thing we were still trying to square away less than an hour before kickoff was the pronunciation of new Dallas midfielder James Marcelin. When he played in Portland, it was listed as ‘mar-suh-leen,” but I thought as a French word (Marcelin is Haitian), it should be ‘mar-suh-lan.’ I asked FC Dallas communications staffer Jason Minnick to double-check when he asked, and he came back with a pronunciation of “mar-SEE-lin,” so that’s what we went with.

As for the game itself, it is difficult to read much into it due to the red cards. I thought both were justified. I know Blas Pérez had no malice in his challenge on Drew Moor, but his studs were up, above the knee, and he came nowhere near the ball, so I thought Mark Geiger made the right call. Game highlights are embedded below - I thought they came out pretty well. We also did a short recap for the FOX Sports Southwest website, and you can find that via this link.

The crucial thing about the result, however, is that Dallas dropped home points against a conference team. With a 3-4-3 record, Dallas is 3-2 against the Eastern Conference and 0-2-3 against the Western Conference, which does not bode well for the rest of the year. At home, Dallas is 3-0 against Eastern teams and 0-1-2 against Western foes. They get another chance at home against a conference opponent on Wednesday, but it’s a much tougher team – Seattle is unbeaten in its last five games – and Dallas will be without Pérez and Daniel Hernandez. It’s going to need big games from Shea, Fabian Castillo, and one more offensive threat to get three points Wednesday night.

Ian Joy and I will call the game on FOX Sports Southwest Plus, so we hope you’ll watch or set your DVR if you’re going to the game!

5/6 Game Highlights:

03 May 2012

Looking back: April 28 Dallas-LA Galaxy broadcast

Last week I called three games in eight days for FC Dallas. I have three more games coming up in May, including two in the next seven days, but I want to recap the April games one by one. I started with the Dallas-Vancouver match, then covered the mid-week Dallas-RSL game, and conclude with Dallas on the road against the LA Galaxy. You may have heard of them.

April 28 – FS Southwest Plus / FS Southwest joined in progress – FC Dallas at LA Galaxy
Ironically, I may have spent the least time preparing for this game (since it was the third in a row and I was plenty familiar with Galaxy personnel), yet it was definitely my favorite broadcast of the week. The biggest reason for that was probably comfort level. We were working from the same studio, with virtually the same production team, and with the same announcing duo, as the previous Saturday. Somehow knowing the routine and knowing what to expect really does help.

Along with our producer, Ian and I decided before the game to put a little extra emphasis on being energetic throughout the show. It may sound obvious, but it’s easy sometimes to slip into a lull in the game or feel the effects of starting a show at 9:30 p.m., so focusing on energy was a useful reminder throughout the night.

We got the lineups at what felt like the last minute – right after they’re turned in, about 60 minutes before kickoff – and had to make several adjustments to Dallas (with so many injuries, it’s a tough lineup to predict these days) while making one big adjustment to LA. For the second straight week, we got a goalkeeper change, with Bill Gaudette stepping in for Josh Saunders, based on ‘personal reasons.’ We couldn’t find out any more about Saunders’ absence, but luckily I’ve watched a lot of Gaudette games on TV over the years, from St. John’s to Columbus to Puerto Rico, so I knew what to expect. Once again, his was a storyline we knew the cameras would focus on.

For most games, we do a ‘tease’ for the show open, which is about 10-15 seconds of footage supporting a voiceover to set up the game. For the RSL game, for instance, we had focused on Salt Lake’s winless history in Texas and showed footage of its playoff loss to FC Dallas two years prior, the main chip in the rivalry. I enjoy coming up with the verbiage for a tease as a mental challenge of sorts. We skipped the tease for this game, and I actually thought the abrupt intro went well.

Without much time to think about it, I went back to something Dallas midfielder Bobby Warshaw had told me. Warshaw, who ended up not making the start, had told FC Dallas cameras on Thursday, “If you can’t get up for the LA Galaxy at the Home Depot Center on a Saturday night, you’re in the wrong sport.” So my intro ended up being, “Games don’t get much bigger than this for FC Dallas, playing on the road against the defending MLS Cup champion, the LA Galaxy.” (Looking back at it, I probably should have said “regular season games” for total accuracy, but it just didn’t flow.) Simple, right? Nothing magic about it. But somehow it felt like the right energy with which to start a show, and I thought we carried that energy throughout the broadcast.

This really felt like our best show, start to finish. It was an easy game to stay excited about, with chances for both teams and several swings of possession and momentum throughout the game. In the second half, we knew the regular FOX Sports Southwest audience would be joining the game in progress after the Texas Rangers broadcast ended, and they just happened to come in as Robbie Keane was stepping up to a penalty kick. Now I can’t imagine changing the channel on a penalty kick, even if soccer wasn’t my sport, so I felt like we had a good chance to pick up some viewers. The timing was tight, so in the end I called the penalty kick – a miss, shockingly – and then welcomed in the audience. I hope a few Rangers fans or casual fans stuck around because of that dramatic entry to the broadcast!

It became a dramatic game to call, with Brek Shea scoring another penalty kick (unfortunately often the least dramatic way to call a goal) and Dallas trying to protect a 1-0 lead. It would have been an invaluable point, but LA managed to tie the game in stoppage time. The call of that goal was an awkward one for me, as I called out, “Dallas …” planning to say “clears the ball,” but then had to adjust mid-stride, eventually saying something to the effect of “… gives it away late.” Maybe not the perfect call, but exactly what it felt like in that case, as FC Dallas went from its biggest win of the season to a tie that, while a decent result considered in a vacuum, surely felt like two points lost. I'm trying to track down a DVD copy of the game to share some of the game highlights with you, so hopefully I can do that on my next trip to Big D.

Despite the outcome for Dallas, I felt great after the game. I really felt like it was the best of the four games I’ve called for FC Dallas this year, and I can’t wait to get back on the air this week with two more games, Sunday against Colorado and Wednesday against Seattle.

02 May 2012

Looking back: April 25 Dallas-RSL broadcast

Last week I called three games in eight days for FC Dallas. I have three more games coming up in May, including two in the next nine days, but I want to recap the April games one by one. I started with the Dallas-Vancouver match, and now we turn to the mid-week Dallas-RSL game.

April 25 – FS Southwest Plus / CW30 / ESPN 700 AM – FC Dallas vs. Real Salt Lake
The Wednesday game was a different animal altogether. Aside from being able to actually watch Dallas train in person and talk with RSL head coach Jason Kreis in person as part of my research, and aside from actually being in the stadium, the big difference was that we were taking on a combined broadcast that was seen in both Dallas and Salt Lake City.

I think these combined broadcasts have a lot of potential, because a good announcing team will know and represent the perspective of both teams, and an on-site production should be able to put together a very good show for home fans, away fans, and neutrals watching online. The focus will be overall storylines of both teams, not just the local perspective. At the moment, the biggest challenge of combined broadcasts, in my opinion, is not the announcers or the production, but the sponsor inventory. It’s simple enough to have the FC Dallas lineup presented by Dr Pepper and the Real Salt Lake lineup presented by Xango, but a lot of the other promotional reads didn’t seem to have the same flow (RSL offers for a fried chicken establishment, for example, don't carry over to North Texas), and I think they slowed us down and congested the broadcast just a bit. In this case, we were also being simulcast on radio in Salt Lake City, so I had to talk a little more than I usually would on a TV broadcast and give the time and score a little more often. It's never enough for a radio listener, I know, but hopefully it helped a bit.

It was my first time working with Brian Dunseth, although we had met several times previously from his work with FOX Soccer. I think it took us a little bit to find our rhythm of who talked when and who covered what aspects of a play (plus, how do you react when somebody says "flying taco" on air?), but I thought we got a lot more comfortable as the game went on, which bodes well for our next game together on Sunday. It's great to have Brian next to you because he sees the game so well and is so entrenched in the league.

Although we saw a nasty arm injury to Carlos Rodriguez and a first MLS goal from Emiliano Bonfigli to tie the game for RSL, the big talking point was the penalty kick awarded to Dallas just before halftime. First of all, the play was an awkward one to call, because I definitely had to wait a second to be sure the referee was calling a penalty kick, and even when it happened, I wasn't entirely sure what the call was for. Secondly, both Brian and I had separately noted in our own research that the referee, Geoff Gamble, had a history of awarding penalty kicks, so that immediately kicked into both of our minds, and Brian went directly to that point on-air. Third, it's eventually a judgment call as to what constitutes a handball in the box. I don't know that either Brian or I saw the need to make the call, but having worked for teams on both sides of those decisions, I think we were able to point out RSL's outrage (especially given the calls against them the week before) and the Dallas sentiment of: "It clearly hit his hand, and we deserved that call after controlling the last 30 minutes." Of course, saying each perspective leaves fans of the other team more than a little frustrated, but isn't that what soccer's all about?

At any rate, as in so many ties, I would have liked a few more late dramatics, but the closest we came was Chris Seitz diving at the feet of Alvaro Saborío in the 77th minute to preserve the 1-1 score. Full highlights from our broadcast available here.

After the game, we had the awkward sign-off of, “FC Dallas fans, good night to you; Real Salt Lake fans, stay tuned for the post-game show.” That left us with 30 minutes to talk Real Salt Lake in the first post-game show I’ve done on television, although I’ve certainly done more than my share on radio over the years. That meant more on-camera time at a point in the night where we’re usually pretty tired of being ‘on.’ I actually enjoyed the post-game show, though, talking over some of the key moments both with Brian and with Jason Kreis and Will Johnson from RSL. All in all, I hope my latest foray into the RSL market left folks feeling better than my last one, and it was a fun game to call.

01 May 2012

Open Cup nostalgia: My first road trip

I love the U.S. Open Cup. Something about seeing teams from different leagues and different levels squaring off appeals to my brain. It’s one of the reasons I got into soccer in the first place: I thought club teams representing different countries in the UEFA Champions League was the coolest concept.

So I always look forward to U.S. Soccer's preliminary draw for the Open Cup, pitting teams I’ve never heard of against places I’ve never been, all vying to make it onto the main stage against professional and (eventually) MLS opposition. The tournament’s biggest lure is the chance for a rec team – such as ASC New Stars, who play in the same league I did, the Houston Football Association (albeit in a much higher division) – to face and, once in a blue moon, beat a professional team. Most amateur teams are from the more organized PDL and NPSL, in which many of the players are college players (and there are some future stars out there if you look back at old Open Cup scoring records), but the USASA qualifiers are the true Cinderellas.

I’m especially excited for this year’s tournament, because all 16 American-based MLS teams and all of the other professional teams are in the tournament. Qualifying games among MLS teams were usually an after-thought, while last year’s tournament seemed light on aspiring giant-killers without the NASL.
I’ll write about plenty of the matchups and whatever games I can attend in later posts, and those interested will of course want to check TheCup.US), but I want to provide a brief look at my most memorable Open Cup experience:

My first Open Cup game was in 2002, when I was a communications intern for the MetroStars. No New York /  New Jersey crap, just ‘MetroStars.’ As an intern with occasionally too much time on my hands, I had spent plenty of it researching the history of MLS teams playing against minor-league teams in the Open Cup. Most of my duties, however, involved press clippings, game notes, and game days in the press box. For away games, I was just another fan watching on TV. But when the MetroStars drew an away game against the A-League’s Hampton Roads Mariners in mid-July, my bosses sent me on the trip as the team’s sole communications representative. I was excited about the honor of flying solo and glad for a free trip, but looking back on it, the assignment kind of shows you what they thought of the tournament, doesn’t it?

We flew down to Virginia Beach on the day of the game, but I was later instructed to leave that out of an online report so that fans did not know just how casually we took the tournament. After arriving at the hotel, while the players napped, Octavio Zambrano’s technical staff asked me – somehow they knew I was adept at using the internet – for some help researching our opponent. Suffice it to say, professional scouting has rarely been part of my job description.

The game itself was hardly a classic, in retrospect. I wrote live text updates on good ‘ol MetroStars.com, less than 1,000 people showed up (most of them there to watch native son Steve Jolley), and Rodrigo Faria scored the only goal of the game in the 76th minute to give the MetroStars the win. I remember being impressed by the Mariners and thinking they deserved better than a shutout loss, but I sure was happy to leave with a win. It actually wasn’t a bad MetroStars lineup: Tim Howard, Mike Petke, Steve Jolley, Craig Ziadie, Andy Williams, Ross Paule, Brad Davis, and Mamadou Diallo all started. (Pretty sure I wrote this recap, which lives on at the great MetroFanatic.com.) For my take on the trip at the time - including Hampton Roads' bizarre goalkeeper situation - see the original version of this piece I wrote for the MetroStars website. It was certainly an interesting road debut for a freshman in college.

As a post-script, the MetroStars drew the next round of the Open Cup at home against Columbus and elected to play it as part of a doubleheader with the New York Power of the WUSA out on Long Island. Again, it shows you how seriously the Open Cup was taken back then. On the other hand, announced attendance was more than 8,000, so maybe they had the right idea. I can’t remember which game most fans came to see.

I later was part of several unforgettable Open Cup games while working for the Houston Dynamo – a penalty shootout loss and a revenge win at Charleston, the epic 2009 semifinal at Seattle – and I hope to see plenty more over the years. But the Open Cup will always take me back to my first professional road trip, Tim Howard giving me a nickname in the first 10 minutes of the bus ride to the hotel, and my attempts to get a coherent quote from Rodrigo Faria after the game. Good times.

Looking back: April 21 Dallas-Vancouver broadcast

I haven’t written a whole lot recently, because I’ve been staying busy preparing for and calling three games in eight days for FC Dallas. I have three more games coming up in May, including two in the next nine days, but I want to recap the April games one by one, starting with the Dallas-Vancouver match.

April 21 – TXA 21 – FC Dallas at Vancouver Whitecaps
The Vancouver game on April 21 was my first to call from a remote studio, which is always a challenge. You prepare for a game done from studio pretty much the same way you prepare for any other, but it’s definitely weird to put on a suit, pick up your color analyst, and drive to an isolated building where you share the parking lot with about 10 cars.

In this case, things got a little rushed because I could not resist watching the end of the perfect game thrown by my former Rice classmate, Philip Humber, and because I’m still learning the ins and outs of North Dallas driving. But I met up with my analyst, former U.S. international Ian Joy, and we set about finding the studio. From exchanging e-mails with Ian and our producer during the week, I could tell Ian was excited about the broadcast, but I don’t think I was quite prepared for his Scottish accent! Once I got used to it, however, we got along well.

I was plenty familiar with Vancouver from seeing the Whitecaps in preseason and in Philadelphia, and I of course watch every FC Dallas minute I can, so I felt confident in my research, but I wasn’t sure how we would be affected by not being there in person (especially a stadium to which I've never been). We found out one effect in short order.

When you call a game remotely, your production team is receiving a video feed from the home team's production at the site of the game. You get pretty much whatever angle they’re showing, but you get it without graphics; this is called a “clean feed.” You also get an audio soundtrack of stadium and field noise without the home commentators; this is called “international audio.” In the end, you’re sitting there with crowd noise in your headphones and a big monitor of the game in front of you, so it’s not quite as hard as you might think.

But when we got word about 10 minutes before we went on air that Kevin Hartman had pulled out due to back spasms and Chris Seitz was making his second FC Dallas start, there was a bit of scrambling to adjust the talking points in our second segment. While there is some communication and coordination between the two production teams in terms of replays, you rarely know which camera angle the feed will cut to next, so we had to wait until the camera focused on Seitz to really make our points about him. Fortunately, the last-minute change was a main storyline for everybody calling the game, not just the Dallas broadcasters, so the Vancouver feed gave him plenty of time.

The game itself went very well, I thought. Ian may be early in his broadcasting career, mostly having done radio work in Salt Lake City, but he obviously knows the game and is excellent at conveying that to viewers. He had faced Vancouver teenager Omar Salgado personally in training in Portland, so that was another nice ‘in’ that we had on a key storyline, namely Salgado’s first start of the year.

Dallas lost the game, playing OK despite rarely forcing Joe Cannon into a tough save, but I thought Ian and I worked very well together and worked with the production team to put together a good show. As it turns out, there were technical difficulties during the first 15-20 minutes of the game, resulting in our graphics and commentary not making the TXA 21 airwaves. Unfortunately, that included the only goal of the game, a great effort from Vancouver’s Camilo, which meant my only goal call of the night was lost to history. That was definitely frustrating to find out after the fact, but I know everybody on the technical end was working hard to get us on the air, and at least Dallas fans did get the clean feed during those early portions of the game.
Additionally, the broadcast was tape-delayed, which meant that when we got to a restaurant around 11:30 p.m., we were just in time to watch the last 15 minutes or so on TV. It’s more than a little odd reading the closed-captioning of your own speech, but it was cool to see the game’s distribution in person, something we don’t usually get to do and a good way to end the night.

I'll follow up with more from the April 25 and April 28 broadcasts later in the week, as well as look at some key trends heading into the FC Dallas matches against Colorado and Seattle.