Carroll: It’s Soccer Season

(NYC FC’s David Villa – Mike Lawrence / Sportsday Wire)

With the start of the Major League Baseball season less than two weeks away, combined with all of the attention given to men’s and women’s college basketball, it’s easy to overlook that the Major League Soccer season has gotten underway.
After years of hearing how soccer was ready to finally make its mark on the USA with the reality never matching the hype, there is now ample evidence that the “world’s sport” could at least push ahead of hockey here. A good crowd turned out Friday at Yankee Stadium, on a cool though not overly chilly evening considering the time of year, to see the New York City Football Club lose to the Orlando City Soccer Club by the all too typical soccer score of 1-0.
NYCFC certainly had their chances as they had possession of the ball far more than Orlando City did, but it was to no avail as they couldn’t close. Balls sailed off the goalpost or either just to the sides or over it. The baseball equivalent would be the countless times that the Mets have had runners in scoring position and yet never find a way to get them to cross home plate.
New York City Football Club is in its second year of operations and it’s a joint venture between the New York Yankees, who have a 20% equity stake, and the English Premier League’s Manchester City football team.
They did not make the MLS playoffs last year but ownership made it clear that it would not use being a novice franchise as an excuse for futility as head coach Jason Kreis was fired. While that might seem unfair, Man City spared no expense in trying to make their Big Apple subsidiary credible from the start by exporting such European stars as Frank Lampard, David Villa, and Andrea Pirlo.
Veteran baseball columnist Bob Klapisch was at Yankee Stadium Fridaynight and he admitted to me that it was the first non-baseball event that he had covered in years. “You have to love the fact that the games are over in two hours matter what!” he told me with a smile. Obviously the same will never be said for the nation’s pastime.
The hardest part for American sports fans to get used to is that the referees can add time back on the clock for stoppages of play since timeouts that exist in the NBA and the NFL are not part of soccer. My suggestion would be to make the extra time more visible on the stadium clock for fans to see.
Major League Soccer’s season stretches from mid-March to late November. My suggestion would be that the league shrink its schedule by having more midweek games. An April though late October/early November schedule would be better for fans, particularly here in the Northeast, and would less tax our attention spans.
It was clear in his post-game press conference at Barclays Center that University of North Carolina Asheville Nick McDevitt was unusually upbeat considering that his team was bounced out in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament by Villanova who won by 30 points.
McDevitt knew that things went as they were expected to and he basically admitted that he and his team were just happy to be there. The unassailable fact is that just getting into the “Big Dance” was a tremendous victory for the team from the scenic town in western North Carolina.
He admitted that it is hard to recruit players because of all of the many universities in the Hickory State that have renown basketball programs while the University of Tennessee is only a two-hour drive to the east. Asheville is also a lot harder to get to than most other North Carolina cities. “Just having played here in New York City will help,” McDevitt said with a broad smile.
Longtime Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada signed with the St. Louis Cardinals after being placed on waivers last week. It’s not a surprise that Mets general manager Sandy Alderson was not a Tejada fan but he should have at least been able to get back some talent from the Cards in a trade. The Mets got nothing except for minor salary relief.
CBS chief executive office Leslie Moonves announced to a meeting of investors last week that the company will sell its radio operations. CBS Radio is still profitable but revenues have been slowing.
WFAN has always been one of CBS Radio’s jewel properties. Its longtime afternoon drive time air personality, Mike Francesa, has long bellowed that he will leave the station when his contract expires next year. He has threatened to leave before but he may be telling the truth this time. The odds are that a new corporate owner will not be as generous when it comes to compensation for talent, even if they’re household names.
The poor man’s Final Four, the National Invitational Tournament, takes place at Madison Square Garden starting next Tuesday.
There has been a lot of discussion about Adam LaRoche’s decision to forfeit a $13 million salary and retire from baseball because Chicago White Sox general manager Kenny Williams asked him to reduce the appearances of his son, Drake, in the Chisox clubhouse. White Sox ace Chris Sale jumped to LaRoche’s defense but retired MLB pitcher Jeff Hirsch told me that no player wants to see kids around the clubhouse except on special family day occasions.
It’s not for me to tell a dad how to raise his son but I think that Drake LaRoche would be better off in school and getting a quality education instead of spending an inordinate amount of time in an environment where there are a very few people in his age group. This extra publicity doesn’t do him any favors either.
FX’s Tuesday Night miniseries, The People vs. OJ Simpson , has been extremely compelling. Cuba Gooding, Jr. does a very credible job as “The Juice” while John Travolta and David Schwimmer are terrific as attorneys Robert Shapiro and Robert Kardashian respectively. Sarah Paulson is outstanding as LA prosecutor Marcia Clark. Expect this one to be in the running for Emmy Awards come September.
ESPN will also be in the OJ Simpson business later this spring when they present a documentary bio that will cover not just the “trial of the century” but his stellar football career and his time as a corporate pitchman and actor as well.
Thomas’s has done a nice job of injecting new life into an old school breakfast staple. The company just introduced blueberry and maple syrup English muffins.
If you are from Ireland and you want to introduce a product in the USA, there is no better time than to do so around St. Patrick’s Day which is actually a bigger deal here than in Ireland. The Irish Fairy Door Company, which makes dioramas aimed at young girls, held a press luncheon last Tuesday at the famous Times Square Pub, the Playwright. The shepherd’s pie was delicious. Hopefully they will roll out a leprechaun door for kids next year!

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