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.