31 December 2014

Here's to 2014: A year of new thrills, adventure, and excitement

So 2014 is in the books. What a crazy year. I didn't get married or anything, like in 2013, but I still hit some milestones this year:
  • My first full year in New York, living life to the soundtrack of car horns and sirens, construction drilling and trains rumbling. I made some sort of trip to four of the five boroughs this year (usually for a sporting event), but there is, of course, a lot more I still want to see. Strange, wonderful, exciting place.
  • My first broadcasts on ESPN2. It's my job, and I try to stay level-headed, but I'm not going to pretend I wasn't nervous before my call of the NWSL semifinals Aug. 23 and the MLS Game of the Week Oct. 12, both on ESPN2. So thankful to have those opportunities and to work with really excellent people on both shows.
  • More women's soccer calls than I've ever done before. This started with the US women's national team in June, continued to the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in August, and wrapped with plenty of college soccer for ESPNU and the SEC Network in the fall. The same game, just a little different, and a host of World Cup champions as color analysts. I had an awesome time and can't wait to do some of it again!
  • My first televised (multi-camera) baseball games! I think I'm associated more with soccer now, but my broadcast career started with (and primarily dealt with) baseball from 2002-06. It's the sport I've been attached to the longest. I finally got the chance to call some televised games with St. John's ESPN3 broadcasts this spring, and it didn't disappoint.
I also saw two concerts and the birth of a cow at the Houston Rodeo, two incredible (and incredibly different) weddings, old family hangouts in Arkansas, Derek Jeter's second-to-last game, and soccer's first Cosmos-Red Bulls showdown in the Open Cup.

I saw soccer games in MLS, NWSL, NASL, USL PRO, NPSL, USOC, SEC, ACC, and AAC.

I was visited in the city by friends new and old, from those leaving on an around-the-world trip to those who live a few subway stops away, and several whose transit status falls somewhere in between.

I experienced crazy weather in Tucson in February, froze my butt off in Chicago in March, shivered in Dallas in April, sweated in Kansas City in August, toured the Southeastern Conference in September and October, and relished covering indoor sports in Queens, Brooklyn, and Jersey in November and December.

I partied (in the sense of attending an event) at the Frick Collection, took my dog into a bookstore (who knew that was allowed?), went to the FDR Museum in Hyde Park, and swelled with pride as my (far) better half was sworn in as a member of the New York State Bar.

Quite a year, personally and professionally, and much to be thankful for. Here's to many more exciting ventures, changes, and memories in 2015!

28 October 2014

Experiencing an SEC football game on the plains of Auburn

I was in Auburn, Alabama last weekend to call the Iron Bowl of Soccer - Auburn vs. Alabama - and got a dramatic finish in a 1-0 Tiger victory in overtime.

The night before, I had the chance to take in my first conference football game in the SEC - Auburn vs. South Carolina - and go behind the scenes with the SEC Network broadcast of the game. It was a really fun experience, and I thought I'd share some of my pictures and my impressions:

20 October 2014

Pictures from my latest Georgia trip, ESPNU broadcast

I made my second trip of the year to call a game at the University of Georgia last weekend, including what felt like my umpteenth flight from LaGuardia to Atlanta. Many more still to come, of course!

With a free Saturday night and no college football in the area, I went to see Silverbacks Park in north Atlanta, home to the Atlanta Silverbacks of the North American Soccer League. Small stadium (c. 5,000 capacity) with a large youth-soccer presence in the crowd.

I was very surprised by two things: 1. The wind made it quite a cool evening. 2. T-shirts for 'MLS Atlanta 2017' were sold side-by-side (from a third-party vendor) with those of the home team, a member of a league often considered in competition with MLS. Very interesting.

My partner for Sunday's game, airing on ESPNU this time instead of the SEC Network, was former US women's national team star Shannon MacMillan, who won the MAC Hermann Trophy as the nation's top player in 1995 while at Portland, then was a key player as the US won the 1996 Olympics and 1999 World Cup and later played in the WUSA.

What had not occurred to me was that the 1996 Olympic soccer competition culminated in Athens, Georgia, with MacMillan scoring the semifinal game-winner and a goal in the final in games played before capacity crowds in Sanford Stadium, the Georgia football stadium! This was Shannon's first time back to Athens in 18 years, and even though she was performing in a much smaller venue, I think she had a great afternoon.

Most of us working on the broadcast were shadowed by University of Georgia broadcast television students as part of ESPN's Campus Connection program, and Shannon and I had the chance to talk to a bunch of them before things got too crazy, so that was a lot of fun.
The game itself was a little hectic. A half-marathon held in the morning had limited our crew's access to the site, so there were a few things that wound up being done on-the-fly. In taping our opening segment, we were about to complete our best take when the stadium PA system launched into The Star-Spangled Banner, a definite no-no. So we did the open live, and except for one word stumble on my part (which I fairly successfully worked through), it still went great!

Afterward, with flights from Atlanta scheduled for Sunday night, we both high-tailed it out after the game, but not before I changed clothes and took a quick selfie with the stone Uga (pronounced like Uggla without the L) that keeps watch over the UGa Soccer Stadium!

Once I got to the airport, I could not convince TGIFriday's to switch any of its televisions away from Sunday Night Football, so to catch the first half of LA vs. Seattle for the MLS Supporters' Shield title, I used their wireless signal instead.
Finally, here's a link to our post-game segment, including both of the game's goals.

05 October 2014

Calling battle of SEC heavyweights on Sunday: No. 6 Florida at Arkansas

Only two women's soccer teams remain unbeaten in SEC play through four rounds of play, and those two will go head-to-head Sunday morning (noon ET) in Fayetteville, Arkansas, when No. 6 Florida (9-2, 4-0 SEC) takes on Arkansas (6-2-4, 2-0-2 SEC). I'll have the call on the SEC Network with 1999 World Cup-winning coach Tony DiCicco (nice resume, eh?).

Where we'll be watching from.
Florida's won five games in a row, including a dramatic 1-0 win at Texas A&M on Friday night in a battle of the conference's top two teams. Arkansas is no slouch, though: The Razorbacks made a Cinderella run to the NCAA Round of 16 last year in the first NCAA tournament appearance in their 28-year history! They play a rough-and-tumble polar opposite of Florida's smooth passing game, so it will provide yet another game featuring a contrast in styles.

You want stars? Florida has US U-20 forward Savannah Jordan, who scored 22 goals as a freshman last year and had the game-winner against A&M (and scored to eliminate Arkansas in last year's SEC quarterfinals). The Gators have 6-foot-1 goalkeeper Taylor Burke, a dual soccer/high-jump star who is one shutout away from tying the Florida career record. They also have a 6-foot Slovenian international with crazy hair and one of the best center-back tandems around. Fun team to watch.

You'll be happy to know I got a lower-key rental car this week.
Arkansas has US U-23 attacker Ashleigh Ellenwood, whose long throw-ins are a vital part of the Razorback game plan -- sometimes it looks like her arms are more tired than her legs at the end of a game! Senior Tyler Allen has already been on SportsCenter twice this year, thanks to her habit of sending in dangerous free kicks from deep positions. The Razorbacks also have bright underclassmen in goalkeeper Cameron Carter and attackers Sparky Fischer and Nicole Ortega. (I use the generic term "attackers" because trying to assign consistent spots to Arkansas's formations is extremely difficult.)

Moving planks one at a time. to support the lift
When I landed this afternoon, I went straight to Razorback Field, where our intrepid crew was setting up for the 11 am (local time) kickoff on Sunday. That meant I got to see how they lined up the scissor lift for our end-zone camera without messing up the stadium's grass: CAREFULLY.

Well worth it for a great view on Sunday.
Coaches love to talk about chess matches on the field ... this one was at the airport.

28 September 2014

Calling top-5 matchup between Virginia, Florida State on ESPNU Sunday

Our midfield view at the Seminole Soccer Complex.
My fall slate of soccer games hits its most high-profile contest on Sunday, with No. 3 Virginia (ranked No. 2 by Soccer America) taking on No. 5 Florida State at 4 p.m. ET on ESPNU. If you like watching soccer at all, this game is worth checking out. Here's why:

1. The best player in college soccer. Morgan Brian is 21, a senior at Virginia, and part of the US women's national team. You may have heard of them. She won the Hermann Trophy as the country's top player last year (this highlight reel gives you some idea), and she's already got three goals and five assists in seven of Virginia's 10 games this year, missing three while playing for the US. An O-mid in college and D-mid for the US, she is an exceptionally technical player, equally comfortable playing one-touch passes and using intricate dribbling moves. I've been very impressed watching her on video, and I'm looking forward to seeing her play in person. On the Virginia side, I'm also looking forward to seeing US U-20 forward Makenzy Doniak (I called her games this summer in the U-20 Womens' World Cup) and versatile midfielder Danielle Colaprico, a New Jersey product who has played all four midfield spots this year and excelled in each.

2. International flavor. Two of Florida State's top offensive threats hail from Iceland, 5-foot-11 Dagný Brynjarsdóttir (herself a candidate for this year's Hermann Trophy) and 5-foot-9 Berglind Thorvaldsdóttir. Yes, that means their fathers' names are Brynjar and Thorvald. The Seminoles also have players from Ireland, Finland, Japan, Germany, and Canada.(and New Jersey!)

3. It's going to be close. 17 of the last 20 games between these ACC rivals have been decided by one goal or finished tied, and their last four regular-season games have gone to overtime. It will also likely be played with pace and skill rarely seen in the college ranks.

4. Virginia's ridiculous offense. The Cavaliers led the country in scoring last year with 3 goals per game and are averaging 3.6 in 2014. They have scored at least two goals in every game this season and have scored in 44 consecutive games, the longest active streak in Division I. They've also won 31 consecutive regular-season games. Their last regular-season loss? In overtime at Florida State on Oct. 14, 2012.

5. These teams need to be tested. Both went to the College Cup last year and were eliminated in heartbreaking fashion by national champion UCLA. But this year, they have not faced a lot of sturdy opposition. Florida State has played two ranked teams, beating Portland and losing (at home) to rival Florida, while Virginia has yet to play a ranked opponent.

After flying in on Saturday afternoon, I watched Virginia's walk-through on a bumpy football practice field (in the shadow of Doak Campbell Stadium) and checked out Florida State's facilities, including the softball field (which shares a concourse with the soccer stadium) and baseball stadium. Not surprisingly, humidity and bugs were everywhere, but I have a feeling that won't slow these teams down this afternoon.

I'm excited to work with ACC, NCAA, and Olympic champion Cat (Reddick) Whitehill for the second straight week, with coverage starting on ESPNU at 4 p.m. ET or after the conclusion of the Florida-Mizzou game that starts at 2 ET (also worth watching). Should that game go into overtime, our show will start on WatchESPN. But whenever and however you have the chance, it'll be worth watching!

27 September 2014

Which of these cars just screams "Jonathan Yardley" to you?

I've gotten over my general distaste for renting cars (being over 25 and having a real credit card make it a LOT easier), but it still throws me into some unusual situations.

On Saturday in Tallahassee, I was asked what size car I wanted, and since I knew my company had reserved a mid-size, I said, "mid-size or smaller, I don't care." When I went out to the lot, my spot featured this beauty:

Somehow, I don't think that car happens to be my style. I can't imagine pulling up just about anywhere in this. Especially on a work trip! I would be incredibly self-conscious standing anywhere near it.

So I had to go back in and tell the guys at the counter that I'd like a different car, adding, "Bet you've never had anybody turn down that car before." That got a big laugh -- I'm not sure whether it was with me or at me!

I wound up in this vehicle, much more to my liking:

23 September 2014

Since I'm in the area ... My first college football game at an SEC stadium

My fall work in the SEC means I will occasionally get to drop in on extra sporting events, and I had the chance to take in my first college football game in an SEC stadium (although I have been to midnight yell practice at Texas A&M) at the University of Georgia's Sanford Stadium on Saturday.

While I have no special ties to Georgia, I've always had a soft spot for Sanford Stadium because of its distinctive hedges. When you see a lot of the big stadiums on TV, they're mostly distinguishable only by the colors painted in the end zones and worn by the fans. With Georgia, however, you see the hedges and instantly know where the game is taking place. It always makes me think of watching football with my grandfather as a kid.

Georgia's game on Saturday was a noon kickoff against Troy, a school I called twice in 2012 but was definitely going to be overmatched in this game. After a wake-up call around 5:30 am CT in Mississippi, I flew to Atlanta, got my rental car, and set out for Athens, Georgia (only a little more than a year after my first trip to Athens, Greece).

02 September 2014

Football opening day in photos -- Aug. 30

I have the fortune to cover multiple sports, and each is interesting and exciting in its own way. Saturday meant the beginning of college football season for most FBS and FCS schools, including the two whose games I called, Buffalo (FBS) and Duquesne (FCS).

It was the in-game broadcast debut of 15-year NFL veteran Vonnie Holliday, who was fun to work with both ahead of time and during the game itself. Here's to many more opportunities for Vonnie and, possibly, for us to work together!

On Friday, after flying in from our respective homes, we met up with our producer at UB Stadium to attend Buffalo's walkthrough. You don't always get a lot out of walkthroughs, but we certainly learned plenty from this one. We learned about a change in the starting offensive line, watched Buffalo work on avoiding bouncing punts, and met nose tackle Kristjan Sokoli, whose family gradually moved to North Jersey from Albania during his childhood.

We also got a look at the Buffalo facilities, including a wall that highlighted the school's all-time leaders in various football categories. That included their most famous football alum, Khalil Mack, who was the No. 5 pick in this year's draft (by the Raiders), and who - as it turned out - came to the game on Saturday.

On game day, we arrived early (around 12:45 for a 3:30 game) to test equipment and rehearse some of the elements of our show. Our broadcast position was a little cramped, but we certainly couldn't complain about the vantage point!

We detoured down to the field to meet Duquesne head coach Jerry Schmitt, who had been very helpful earlier in the week when we talked on a conference call, and - of course - to take a selfie!

After planning to pre-record our opening segment, we wound up doing it live, but I think it ended up being very competitive with our rehearsals, so we were proud of handling that situation well.

Once the game began, Buffalo got off to a good start, but the weather wouldn't cooperate: We had a lightning delay midway through the first quarter. Thankfully we were NOT called on to kill time for the entire 40-minute delay, so we recharged just like the teams did.

After Buffalo controlled most of the first half, a turnover late in the second quarter (when Buffalo's return man failed to avoid a bouncing punt -- remember the walkthrough!?) put Duquesne back in the game. The Dukes, playing an FBS opponent for the first time, promptly dominated the third quarter and actually took a 28-24 lead early in the fourth quarter, much to our surprise.

Buffalo eventually pulled away for the win, however, using a go-ahead touchdown and a clock-eating drive to do so by a 38-28 score. That left Vonnie and I to wrap things up in a post-game segment, and we didn't get back to the hotel until after 9 p.m., not at all what we expected with a 3:30 kickoff!

All in all, a fun opening weekend for both of us. No football for me this weekend (Sept. 6), as I'll be attending a wedding, and I have a lot of weekends tied up with soccer this fall, but I hope to get some more football games under my belt as well!

30 August 2014

Circus catch highlights Duquesne effort in 38-28 loss to Buffalo

My Saturday game, called on ESPN3 with Vonnie Holliday, was Duquesne's first game against an FBS team, and they sure put in a memorable performance. After trailing 21-0 late in the first half, the Dukes rallied to go up 28-24 early in the fourth quarter before eventually succumbing, 38-28.

I'll post some pictures from our day later, but first one of the coolest football plays I've had the privilege to call.

29 August 2014

My college football season kicks off with Buffalo vs. Duquesne Saturday on ESPN3

Most of you know me for calling soccer games or working in soccer, but this weekend I'll be stepping away to call college football for ESPN3. I am a big fan of several sports, and this is a chance to call one of them!

Sept. 1, 2012 - My CFB debut.
Football, Yardley-Style
Two years ago was my first experience calling college football (although I had called high school games in Texas, which occasionally has more fans than some college teams), and it was awesome. Over the course of the 2012 season, I called nine games, most with former Florida State offensive lineman Forrest Conoly, ranging from an opening-day game between two first-year FBS programs to the FCS quarterfinals featuring North Dakota State, then en route to the second of its three consecutive (and counting) national championships.

The rhythm of flying to a different college city each week, learning the teams and the context of their seasons, trying to take in some of the local culture, and then calling three-and-a-half hours of intensity, was exactly what I was looking for, and it made me want college football to be part of my portfolio going forward.

It didn't happen last year, in part because I missed the first three weeks of the season while traveling and moving to New York, and in part because there are fewer games covered by ESPN3 in reasonable travel distance of my new home.

Always nice to see your name listed near Brent Musberger's.
This year, however, I'm back on the schedule, at least for one week: I'll be calling Buffalo vs. Duquesne on Saturday at 3:30 pm ET on ESPN3! I've got a new partner for this one, 15-year NFL veteran Vonnie Holliday, and I can't wait to get started.

This Week's Game
As so many early-season games are, this one appears a bit of a mismatch. Buffalo went to a bowl game last year, while Duquesne is an FCS team offering only 35 scholarships. But Buffalo lost three of the best players in its history -- No. 5 NFL draft pick Khalil Mack, who's kind of impressive, tailback Branden Oliver and top receiving option Alex Neutz. In their last game against an FCS opponent in September 2013, the Bulls needed five (yes, that's right, five!) overtimes to beat Stony Brook.

Duquesne is coming off a season in which the Dukes were, in their minds, less than seven minutes away from winning the Northeast Conference outright and earning a bid to the FCS tournament. Having missed three field goals, they ultimately fell to Sacred Heart 10-0, so when the teams tied for the NEC title, Sacred Heart got the automatic bid. For the Dukes, this year is about winning that conference title outright and getting to the dance. Winning the opener may be highly unlikely, but they will not be short on motivation or effort, and I'm looking forward to seeing what both teams bring into their respective 2014 campaigns.

Both the Bulls and Dukes have hometown-hero quarterbacks, with Buffalo's Joe Licata (pronouncd li-COT-uh) the leader of an effort to build sustained success at Buffalo, historically not a great market for college football but one that led the MAC in attendance last year. Dillon Buechel has skills rarely seen by a program used to building on Steelers-style football: defense and the punishing rushers of western Pennsylvania. Buechel (pronounced BEE-kul) was one of the top 20 freshmen in the FCS last year.

Having watched video and studied flash cards all week, I'll be flying to Buffalo on Friday and checking out UB Stadium before calling Saturday's game. Give it a look if you've got some time -- Vonnie's 6-foot-5, so I'll be the short one this time!

27 August 2014

Sporting Park, four years later

After calling the Aug. 23 NWSL semifinal in Kansas City (more on that later) during the day, I got to take in an MLS game as a fan that night.

I'd been to the completed Sporting Park twice before, both when working for the Houston Dynamo, and both times the emotions of the game (a 3-0 Houston loss and a Houston win in the conference championship) overshadowed anything the stadium provided as far as takeaways.

So on this visit I spent the first half just watching the game from a press box-level seat, then spent the second half moving around to sit in several different seats (the south end zone, the top row of the 'G' in 'SPORTING' on the far sideline, and seats just behind the KC bench).

There's a lot to like about the stadium. The noise was great (at least until D.C. United took the game over with three goals in the first half), and I liked that the concourse is, at least for half the stadium, still in sight of the field. Very different from BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston and Red Bull Arena in New Jersey (at RBA, they won't even let you stand at the top of a section). Both shades of blue were everywhere, the crowd consisted of a good mix of people,and the place had a great energy level.

More than anything else, it was cool to see the finished product. On a Dynamo road trip to Kansas City in September 2010, I got a tour of the in-progress stadium, and here's a look at how things looked then and now (and a comparison of how much better cell-phone cameras have gotten!)

Sept. 2010Aug. 2014

12 August 2014

All Chinese to me: Preparing for players whose names you can't read

I take the preparation and research for my broadcasts very seriously, and I got some special help this week.

This summer brought me a terrific opportunity, as I was asked to call games at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup for ESPN

That meant learning how to pronounce a ton of names, many of them in languages unfamiliar to me. We've already covered some of my French background with this #HumbleBrag post, but the Asian teams … that's another story. Is pronouncing the transliterated versions of Chinese and Korean phonetically really the best way? With the US drawn against China in the group stage, I had to find a solution.

Thankfully, my family came to the rescue again. My older brother happens to have married a Chinese-American woman and has learned plenty of Chinese himself. So I spent a good 30 minutes on Skype listening to him make sounds I never thought he could. (He actually looked online for a roster in Chinese characters to make sure he was giving me good advice, but he never could find one.)

After repeating his pronunciation of player after player, I then wrote them out phonetically for myself (Lyu Siqi became lyew suh-chee, for example) and began practicing. When watching China's first two games, I said the names out loud as players passed the ball around, constantly reminding myself to use only the family name (the first name listed) on second reference. So if I wanted to use what we think of as Lyu Siqi's "last" name, I would say, 'lyew.'

Between the first and second group games, I got my sister-in-law on the phone for a test run, and she only corrected one of my 22 pronunciations, so I felt ready to go for the US-China game on Tuesday.

When preparing my scoresheet, instead of writing out the players' names as listed by FIFA (LYU Siqi) or what appeared on their jerseys (LYU S Q), I went with a combination of accuracy and phonetics. Since I had most of the last names down and wanted those to be used more often, I wrote the last names in all caps in their proper spelling (LYU). Then I wrote a small-caps, phonetic version of their individual names (SUH CHEE). So if I had forgotten No. 5's name, I would look down and quickly get LYU; suh-chee might only be used if I had time to get into any of the (minimal) background information I had come up with.

I went over the names with my partner, former World Cup- and U-20 World Cup-winning coach Tony DiCicco, who has been great to work with for all the US games. Plenty familiar with Chinese national teams from facing them over the years, he also focused on getting the last names correct. Since there were only a few duplicates in the lineup, that mostly sufficed.

The broadcast went off without a hitch, at least from a Chinese names perspective, and the time we put into our preparation was well worth it. How else could we quickly be able to correctly identify and pronounce TAN and TANG, LYU and LIU, LI and LEI, ZHONG and ZHANG? For that I am very, very grateful to my brother and my sister-in-law.

Now for Saturday ... anybody know Korean?

03 August 2014

NPSL championship game archive

Here's the archived video from Saturday night's NPSL championship game between the New York Red Bulls U-23s and Chattanooga FC. Supporters from both teams laid down a great soundtrack, and I thoroughly enjoyed calling the game. Have a look:

24 July 2014

The moment Real Salt Lake decided to sign 17-year-old Sebastian Saucedo

I actually missed the moment when Real Salt Lake decided to sign 17-year-old Sebastian Saucedo, who is reportedly set to become the club's first Utah-based Homegrown Player (the other HGPs have come from outside the state via the club's residential academy in Arizona).

I was tweeting. Oops.

It was at the Generation adidas Cup - the MLS U-17 championship - in Frisco, Texas, on April 17. I was covering the tournament for MLSsoccer.com, calling three group games, the semifinals and the final and writing daily recaps from the tournament.

So on the final day of group games, Real Salt Lake was playing its biggest rival in Development Academy play, the LA Galaxy, with the winner advancing to the semifinals. The teams were battling for the division lead, so it was a can't-miss game. As I arrived at the field, I noticed more people than usual near the RSL bench. I recognized a few faces I knew from the front office and was mildly surprised they had found their way to a youth game, given that the first team was nowhere near Texas at the time.

Then I saw a face that shocked me. The club's owner, Dell Loy Hansen, was laughing with general manager Garth Lagerwey and co. At a youth tournament. It seemed absolutely crazy to me. It turns out Hansen had used his own plane to fly a group of staffers in for the game.
I don't know how much money fuel for private planes costs, but it seems like they may have gotten their money's worth on this night. Real Salt Lake blitzed LA with three goals in the first 10 minutes, the final goal a spectacular left-footed volleyed lob from 25 yards that brought the house down. I missed it, too busy tweeting about the second goal, but I saw enough. (Still hoping we can dig it out of MLS archives this week.)

Real Salt Lake added two more goals to go up 5-0 in the first 26 minutes, with Saucedo setting up the fourth and scoring the fifth. The man everybody at RSL calls, "Mr. Hansen" was intrigued. You could tell he was peppering those around him with questions about this kid.

This is the moment
When Saucedo was subbed out of the game in the 61st minute, Salt Lake's 6-1 win secure, he was soon summoned to talk to "Mr. Hansen" behind the bench. I said to an RSL staffer, half-joking, that the conversation consisted of, "So, about that senior year of high school ... I think you could do it in Salt Lake City, don't you?" and was told, in a similar tone, "That's exactly what that conversation is."

Obviously a lot more went into it than Hansen's opinion and that one play (Saucedo has been consistently outstanding for RSL and was named USSDA Western Conference Player of the Year, although the Galaxy did get revenge by beating RSL in the national title game earlier this month).

I'm sure head coach Jeff Cassar and GM Lagerwey were the most influential people in the decision.

But that moment in Frisco sure didn't hurt.

The next night, Saucedo scored with another spectacular chip, and this time I wasn't going to miss it. I even got to call it. This is what RSL's newest signing is capable of:

24 June 2014

Calling Philadelphia Union vs. New York Cosmos Tuesday night

Tonight I'm working the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 game between the Philadelphia Union, from MLS, and the 21st-century edition of the New York Cosmos, from the second-tier North American Soccer League, a re-launch of the 1970s-era Cosmos. I'll have the call with Kristian Dyer, of BigAppleSoccer.com and Philadelphia Union pre-game and halftime show fame, at 7 p.m. ET on the Union's website.

Despite it being an MLS vs. NASL game, part of me considers the Cosmos favorites in this one. They're playing extremely well (19 goals for, 3 goals against in 11 games) this year, including a 3-0 demolition of the New York Red Bulls on June 14 that was more lopsided than even the score indicates. They have MLS-level talent at several positions and are really aggressive throughout the field. If they bring the same tenacity to Tuesday's game that they did against the Red Bulls, I like their chances.

That's because Philadelphia continues to struggle. Just 3-7-6 in league play, the Union needed a last-minute goal from Maurice Edu to force overtime against struggling third-tier team Harrisburg last week, and while they did rally to win, they have been anything but convincing. Their chances will significantly improve, in my view, if striker Conor Casey is healthy enough to play and if Frenchman Sebastien Le Toux gets the starting nod; he was at the heart of every significant Union chance against Harrisburg after coming off the bench.

I've really enjoyed meeting and hearing from both head coaches - New York-area soccer legend Giovanni Savarese, a former Venezuelan international for the Cosmos and Villanova grad and former MLS defender Jim Curtin for Philadelphia, where he is the interim manager. I've also got friendly faces on either side, having worked with Union midfielder Danny Cruz and Cosmos defender Hunter Freeman when I worked in Houston.

Whoever wins will host a quarterfinal on July 8, a game I plan to attend and hope to work no matter who hosts, and I'm excited to see this one tonight.

Philadelphia N.Y. Cosmos
Record 3-7-6 6-2-1
Place 8th/10 MLS East 2nd/NASL
Scoring 22-27 = -5
14-3 = +11
Leading scorer Sebastien Le Toux 4
Conor Casey 4
Mads Stokkelien 3 (+2)
Assist leader Cristian Maidana 6 Mads Stokkelien 3 (+1)
First season 2010 2013 fall
League Record 44-60-44 15-3-5
Open Cup history 5-2, 4-1 home 2-0, 0-0 away

21 June 2014

Compliments en français

This is not going to be the most humble post in blog history, so bear with me.

In preparing to call the US-France women's game on Thursday, I worked really hard to learn the correct pronunciations for the French players' names. I watched the women's French Cup final, I watched France's friendly against Brazil, and I watched one of their qualifying matches against Austria. I also watched their behind-the-scenes YouTube videos from the 2013 European Championship. I read a lot of French articles and tweets about the French women's team, known as Les Bleues (feminine version of Les Bleus, as the men's team is known). By far the most French studying I had done since my junior year of college.

20 June 2014

USA 2, France 2 - stream archive

I'm exhausted this morning after calling USA-France last night and getting home at about 1:30 a.m. last night, then rising early for working hours today.

But I'm happy. I had a blast calling the US game last night, and I'm very relieved that the United States' record home unbeaten streak survived my first game on the call, now extended to 84 games (73-0-11) after the 2-2 tie.

I got to call two excellent goals from cult hero Alex Morgan, her first goals for the US in more than a year (due in large part to injury), even if the enthusiastic screams obscured my voice at times.

More on the game later, including pictures and some reviews of my French accent, but here's the stream archive:

19 June 2014

USA vs. France tonight at 7:30 pm!

Rentschler Field
Tonight I get to call the US women's national team for the first time when they host France at 7:30 pm at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn. The game can be seen at USSoccer.com.

I can admit I've got a few butterflies for this one. Calling the national team is always a big deal, and it's the first time I've called the women's national team, let alone in a game pitting teams ranked Nos. 1 and 4 in the world against each other.

But I'm far more excited than nervous and really looking forward to the game. I talked with new US head coach Jill Ellis by phone yesterday and have been watching tape on both the US and France for several weeks now.

The US is about one year away from the World Cup, and while they still have qualifying to go through in the fall, it's expected to be a formality. So this two-game series with France (the US won on Saturday in Tampa, 1-0, highlights) is about preparing the team's contributors to play high-level opposition and to give them time to adapt to a new style. From its typical starting lineup, the US is without goalkeeper Hope Solo (personal commitment), midfielder Megan Rapinoe (foot), midfielder Shannon Boxx (maternity). Forward Abby Wambach (LCL) did not train on Wednesday, while forward Alex Morgan has yet to start since returning from an ankle injury.

France is at the end of its season (the European season runs fall-to-spring), and this is the only summer in a four-year cycle without a major tournament (2011 Women's World Cup semifinals, 2012 Olympics semifinals, Euro 2013 quarterfinals). But as you can see from their results at major tournaments, France is an elite team trying to learn how to be champions, and playing the US is the best possible test.

For more on the game, here are a few preview articles I looked through this morning:
Hartford Courant with Alex Morgan on the men's World Cup
Soccerly.com on US objectives
Soccerly.com on what the game means to France
L'Equipe with French captain Wendie Renard, including this quote: "The team is at the end of the season, obviously, and there is fatigue, but for the group, it is good to compare yourself to the big nations. If one day you want to win a title, you have to go through them. The fans will be against us, and it will be interesting to see how people react mentally …"