Monday, August 24, 2009

Altidore's Dream Debut

In case you didn't see this from this past weekend, Jozy Altidore came on in the 60th minute in his debut in the EPL for Hull City against Bolton. 28 seconds later, on his first touch, he sends a sick backwards pass in and claims the assist on Hull's only goal in their 1-0 victory. It doesn't stop there...he had 3 more chances in the next 2 minutes after that goal that just barely missed. Truly a dream debut for the 19-year-old U.S. phenom, and hopefully this is the start of many more Saturdays and Sundays with Jozy in the starting XI in the Premiership.

ESPN Begins Coverage of EPL, La Liga In U.S.

On Saturday, August 15th, the EPL kicked off a new season. However, this season kickoff was at 7:45am here on the East Coast, and it was quite a bit different: it was in HD. Chelsea opened up the season against Hull City, and in the U.S., this game was not on Fox Soccer Channel or Setanta. It was on ESPN2. In light of Setanta’s financial troubles over in England, ESPN was able to pull Setanta’s share of EPL games in a bidding war when the FA revoked Setanta’s contract for failure to pay. That meant, in a deal with Fox Soccer Channel that was struck a mere hours before the first game was to air, that ESPN will have a weekly Saturday game as well as the Monday afternoon game if there is one. This is great because most of the games will be in HD and will allow millions of people who didn’t have FSC to watch a game each Saturday morning.

Not done with their soccer coverage, ESPN then snapped up the rights to a slot of La Liga matches on Sundays, also to be broadcast in HD. This is great for a league that, until this year, was only on GolTV. While GolTV gave great coverage, high profile games with the influx of talent that has come to La Liga will get to take center stage on Sundays. Imagine El Clásico (Real Madrid-Barcelona) on ESPN2 in HD…oooh I can’t wait.

I do hope that ESPN not only shows the big-time teams, like Chelsea or Real or Man U or Barca, but also gets a chance to show off the smaller teams in both leagues. So far, the 3 games shown on ESPN2 have been Chelsea-Hull, Wigan-Man U and Liverpool-Aston Villa. I believe this Saturday will feature Chelsea against recently-promoted Burnley. This is what this is all about: to grow the popularity of the sport through having access to the 2 top leagues in the world, and to showcase those teams in these leagues that don’t normally get the airtime. I hope it succeeds this year, and that ESPN, along with FSC and GolTV, will be able to broadcast more soccer in HD to the masses as this sport grows in this country, and I hope that this leads to better deals with these networks with MLS and USL to grow the domestic leagues as well.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Live In Person For The First Time

On Sunday, August 9th, Real Madrid played DC United in front of 72,000+ people at FedEx Field as part of their U.S. preseason tour. And, for the very first time, I was in the crowd to witness my favorite soccer team play. It was a great moment for me, because the game was a friendly against my second team, DC United. But, I will definitely never forget seeing Los Blancos come out on the field and being in the stands for that electric atmosphere. The final score was 3-0 Real, but DC United didn’t play bad at all. Their defense held Real for most of the game, especially the play of keeper Josh Wicks. Wicks played out of his mind and definitely earned the standing ovation he received from the large crowd.

While there was a lot of white in the stands, the DC fans were large and boisterous as well. It was a tremendous atmosphere for a friendly between the best club team in U.S. history and the greatest club team in soccer history. I was proud to be there, and hopefully my next time seeing Real Madrid live won’t take another 26 years!