Thursday, February 10, 2011

Red Bulls 2011 Schedule Revealed: Early Trips to Philly, DC

We waited. And waited. Then waited some more for the 2011 MLS regular season schedule to be revealed.  With part of its TV deal still in doubt and factors such as the Gold Cup and stadium construction complicating matters, MLS tested supporters' patience, so much so that Twitter was flooded this morning by cheeky #MLSScheduleIsLateBecause hashtag posts, as fans tried to pass the time before the big unveiling at 2pm ET.

For Red Bulls fans the biggest news is probably that RBNY will be getting several big rivalry games out of the way early. New York will travel to Philadelphia on April 9 to face the Union, then visit RFK Stadium 12 days later. In addition to the opening day visit of Seattle, early season home games include Houston, San Jose and Sporting KC. One quirk of the 2011 RBNY fixture calendar is that the team will have yet another long road trip in the middle of the season, including June away games in Seattle, Portland, Chicago and and early July trip to exact revenge on San Jose.  May is no picnic either, with three trips out west.

The Thursday game in DC could make away travel problematic. On the other hand, there should be another sizable contingent making the trip to Chester this year.  The Red Bulls will not face either of the expansion teams before the end of May, when they play Vancouver at Empire Field. A visit to Portland's PGE Park follows in June. RBNY's first game at Sporting KC's new stadium will not come until October 15.

According to the latest information, start times at Red Bull Arena will vary, with most matches getting underway at 7:30pm ET, a few at 7pm ET or 8pm ET, and only the visit of FC Dallas kicking off early (6pm ET). There will be no afternoon kickoffs, which should help minimize the "straggler" and "no show" problem we saw last year.  Of course, an eventual TV deal with either Fox Soccer Channel or Versus - should one be announced - could change everything. As it stands now, RBNY will be featured eight times out of the 21 matches being shown on The Worldwide Leader.  That's more than any other MLS club, a fact that probably has FC Dallas supporters, who have been shut out of ESPN completely, a mite pissed off. In addition, New York will have an additional five games on Galavision/Telefutura, out of a total of 30 games being shown on Spanish language TV.  Erik Stover mentioned on the Seeing Red! podcast that the club was working on securing its own TV deal. Whether that involved MSG or another local TV partners remains TBD.

As for international tournaments, the weekends of Sept. 3-4 and Aug. 8-9 have been set aside to accommodate USMNT action, but the league will continue to play through the 2011 Gold Cup in June, to the dismay of some and to the potential detriment of RBNY, who could be missing key players much as Tim Ream, Rafa Marquez, Roy Miller, Dane Richards and Juan Agudelo during that time.

Which games are you most looking forward to? Any that you'll have to miss? More importantly, when do you think the league will get around to cementing a new TV deal? As it stands now, I will only have to miss the Galaxy home match (family vacation). Of course if Juan Pablo Angel is healthy and expected to play for the Galaxy, it should be a special evening.
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