31 March 2012

“There’s no excuses when you get to the game”

Since I'm based out of Philadelphia for the first part of this MLS season, I'll be getting to a lot of games at PPL Park when I'm not working elsewhere. I was there this afternoon, covering the Vancouver side of things for the Canadian Press (link via SportsNet) and Prost Amerika (recap, sidebar).

At the end of the day, even after writing three articles, there were still some interesting quotes that I hadn't used, including the above from Martin Rennie. So I thought I'd share them here, along with a few thoughts on the game:

“It doesn’t matter how far you travel or how you get here: There’s no excuses when you get to the game.” -- Martin Rennie
“I think [Sebastien Le Toux]’s fairly level-headed psychologically, but I do think it’s good for him to get this game out of the way and get on with the season. I think it was obviously a big deal for him – he was a fantastic player for the Philadelphia Union, and I believe he’ll be a great player for the Whitecaps as well. This is a hard-working city, and people love hard-working people, and Sebastien – you don’t get much more hard-working than he is – and we’re glad to have him. His work rate is phenomenal, and I think that’s had a big impact on our team, and we can work hard and follow suit from what he’s done. It’ll be good for him to have got this game out of the way now. He can get on with what he’s good at.” -- Martin Rennie

28 March 2012

16 American goalkeepers you may need to know

A line caught my attention in an Associated Press story on the U.S. U-23s’ ouster:

"And goalkeeper, long a strength of the Americans, is now a potential problem area. Given the struggles of Hamid and Johnson, 41-year-old Spurs goalkeeper Brad Friedel might be brought out of national team retirement in the event of an injury to U.S. starter Tim Howard."

Future U.S. national team goalkeeper?
The first mistaken assumption is that Hamid and Johnson are the primary backups to Tim Howard, when it's clearly Brad Guzan. But the overall trend is something I’ve heard a decent amount lately: the American goalkeeper well is drying up. I don’t think of the U.S. as being short on goalkeepers, but it's true that there is no real pecking order behind Howard and Guzan. If you had to pick a starter other than those two, it would make you nervous. But I think it is inaccurate to decry the future of American goalkeepers.

Goalkeepers tend to develop and excel later in their careers than field players. There are many reasons for this – maturity, decision-making, need for repetitions among them – but it’s pretty standard logic. So writing off the entire goalkeeping pool because the U-23 goalkeepers underperformed is not fair.

24 March 2012

Postgame: Seattle 2, Houston 0

Well, if you told me the end result ahead of time (Seattle 2, Houston 0), I would not have been surprised. But if you told me that Tally Hall didn’t make a single save in the match, Houston dominated possession, and Seattle didn’t score from the run of play, I would have been skeptical.
These are among the reasons why I love MLS. It’s unpredictable all the time, so predicting it can make you look like a genius one second and a fool the next. Aside from the result, which fans of both teams probably expected, here are some takeaways:

1. Patrick Ianni might be back.

23 March 2012

Understanding the Seattle-Houston rivalry

Courtesy Nigel Brooks
With Seattle and Houston playing on NBC Sports tonight, there’s been a lot of talk of a Western Conference rivalry being rekindled, if only for a game. There definitely was a rivalry, and we’ll find out tonight if there still is. To appreciate it, you have to understand a few things about why it exists in the first place. Most of these origins center on the 2009 season, in which the teams met five times, four of which felt epic for very different reasons. Since then, they’ve played only four times, so more than half of their head-to-head history came that year, which is why the rivalry may dissipate somewhat with only one game per season.

1. Controversy

20 March 2012

MLS Week 2: What I saw

It’s hard to follow MLS comprehensively these days. Weekends have nine games, so watching every minute is virtually impossible, but I was able to see large parts of several games and the highlight packages from all of them in Week 2, and I had a few thoughts to throw out there. Keep reading for a couple of things to point out from each game of the weekend.

18 March 2012

Feeling good about Broadcast No. 1

So, my first FC Dallas broadcast is in the books after I called last night’s game with Dante Washington. I’m always a bit anxious before anything new, so it almost feels like a relief to get the game under my belt. But all those nerves always make me forget that calling games is a blast. It sounds corny, but I walked out of the stadium last night with a smile on my face, thinking about how much I had enjoyed the past six-plus hours. I’ll have to wait a bit to do it again – my next Dallas telecast isn’t until April 21 – but I’m already excited to do three games in eight days on that trip.

Highlights from first regular season broadcast of 2012

I don't mind telling you I had some nerves prior to my first FC Dallas TV broadcast tonight, but I really enjoyed myself and thought the broadcast went well.

Here's a quick look/listen at the highlights - I'll try to write more about the night and our broadcast once I get some sleep!

You can also see the highlights at this link.

16 March 2012

One day out: FC Dallas vs. Portland

FC Dallas Stadium on Friday morning

We do a lot of preparation for any game broadcast, and I want to detail that process at some point, but in the case of Saturday’s game between Dallas and Portland, preparation included watching both teams train today. From talking to FC Dallas coaches and players (I’ll talk more with John Spencer tomorrow morning) and studying up on this game, there are some fairly obvious talking points about the game.

Before I get to those, however, here are two key statistics I've had an eye on this week:

Goals scored per road game by the Portland Timbers last year (10 goals in 17 games), worst in Major League Soccer.
Goals against average in home games by FC Dallas last year (11 goals in 17 games), second in MLS.

Those numbers illustrate just how much Portland struggled last year and why Saturday's game could be difficult for the Timbers. There really is a more confident air around this year's Timbers, however, and they will hope Kris Boyd can help reverse that stat and their road form. Meanwhile, with a lot of attacking players injured and potentially absent, Dallas will count on its defense to win the first of many intra-conference games with playoff implications.

Now, on to some of the key talking points ...

11 March 2012

Scouting ahead: FCD 2, NY 1

I took a bit of a breather after the Disney tournament in Orlando, but it's now back to sports with a very busy weekend that’s still going. My broadcasting regular season doesn’t start until next Saturday with the Dallas-Portland match, so I spent Sunday afternoon watching Dallas take on New York as part of my preparation, and I’ll do likewise tomorrow night with Portland-Philadelphia.

So a couple of thoughts on FC Dallas from its first game, and I’ll obviously be keeping tabs on the team throughout the week in advance of Saturday night’s broadcast.

03 March 2012

Disney Day 7: Nothing like a couple of 1-0 games

I don't know where to start with for this one - it's been an exhausting seven hours. I worked on the ESPN3 broadcasts of the Pro Soccer Classic for the second consecutive year, which is a real thrill because the production value (audio, number of cameras, graphics, etc.) is on a different level from anywhere else I've worked. There were some big changes to the setup from last year, and I think they mostly worked out very well - I had a good time calling both games, and hopefully the broadcasts worked for our viewers in Texas, Canada, and wherever they were watching.

02 March 2012

Larger-than-life Hassli a happy camper in 2012

Wherever he goes, Eric Hassli stands out. With his size, his tattoos, and his almost-shaved head, he can be seriously intimidating. A minute later, however, his face creased into a smile, he exudes a youthful exuberance that is a magnet for those around him. Standing a head taller than many of his teammates after a Whitecaps training session Friday morning, Hassli was one of the chief jokesters as Jay DeMerit tried to organize the group for a video to be played inside BC Place. Hassli yelled louder than everybody else (often out of turn) and yelled, “Again, again,” when the group broke up after the second take, just to see how many teammates would take the bait and stick around. MLS Insider Shawn Francis caught some additional hijinks on camera.

Almost exactly one year after signing with the Whitecaps as their first designated player, Hassli is a happy camper in his first full preseason with Vancouver. New head coach Martin Rennie has the Whitecaps – and Hassli – set for a 180-degree reversal heading into the new year, with an impressive array of talent, a more cohesive work ethic, and a 3-0 mark with a 7-0 goal differential in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic.

Disney Pro Soccer Classic: Statistics

I've been keeping statistics throughout the Disney Pro Soccer Classic, because that's just something I like to do, so I thought I'd share them ahead of Saturday's third-place and championship games. It's preseason, several teams put out reserve lineups, and there are other mitigating factors, so none of these are too big a deal, but I always find it interesting to look at the numbers. After the jump, I'll give the top five in each category, followed by the other leaders from each team.

01 March 2012

Disney Day 6: What's in a nickname?

Well, in our final broadcast together for this tournament, Simon Borg and I spent time in the first half basically picking on Toronto FC and pointing out how not ready they were for Wednesday's Champions League first leg against the LA Galaxy. Then rookie midfielder Luis Silva woke his team up, scored two goals in five minutes, and turned our show into a discussion of potential nicknames for Silva. QuickSilva (@BobbyBrizzo) and Luis Skillva (@MikalManu) were my favorites of the Twitter suggestions, and Simon went with QuickSilva for the rest of the show.