Thursday, January 5, 2012

New York Red Bulls 2012 Schedule Unveiled

Start Marking Your Calendar: The MLS Schedule is Out!
Major League Soccer seems to finally be getting the hang of this scheduling thing. The 2012 schedule was released today, more than a month earlier than last year's version. For Red Bulls fans, there are some big changes to keep in mind. First, the schedule is once again unbalanced, with Red Bulls playing each Western Conference team only once, while they will face Eastern Conference foes either two or three times, depending on the opponent. Here are a few highlights:
  • A Tricky Start: The Red Bulls have arguably the league's hardest pair of games to start the season, away at Dallas, followed by a game against RSL at Rio Tinto. 
  • First Home Games: The home opener on Sunday March 25 will be a 4PM kickoff against Colorado Rapids. That will be followed by another 4PM kickoff the following weekend against expansion Montreal Impact. 
  • More Daytime Kickoffs: All in all, RBNY will have six home matches with daytime kickoffs. The earlier starts in March could help fans avoid extreme temperatures, but we are scratching our heads over the 1PM kickoff against Chicago Fire on a Wednesday in mid-July. That's either an error or a very very strange scheduling decision.
  • Conference Games: Of the eight Eastern Conference foes, the Red Bulls will play Philadelphia, D.C., New England, Montreal, Houston and Kansas City three times each. Strangely, all three of RBNY's closest regional rivals - Philadelphia, D.C. and New England - will have the advantage of hosting two home games, with just one visit for each to Harrison. The Red Bulls will host Houston, Kansas City and Chicago two times each.
  • Non-Conference Games: The scheduling gods (or Philip Anschutz) have smiled on the Los Angeles Galaxy, allowing them to avoid travel to any of the Eastern Seaboard teams. That means that the Red Bulls' only game against last year's champs will be at the Home Depot Center on May 5. As for the Cascadia teams, both Seattle and Portland will both have to travel east, while the Red Bulls will trek to Vancouver.
  • Away Days: The Red Bulls two visits to Montreal both fall on Saturdays, making them ideal road trips for traveling supporters. One will be played at Olympic Stadium, and the other at the newly renovated Stade Saputo. By contrast, the two away games against traditional rivals D.C. United fall on Sunday evening and Wednesday - hardly ideal for those with jobs.
  • Television: The Red Bulls will appear on national television 21 times in 2012, including eight appearances on NBC (two of those on the mothership network), seven on the ESPN networks and six on Galavision.
  • FIFA Dates: Conflicts with FIFA dates have been minimized, with the schedule honoring all three CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying dates.
  • Travel: Unlike 2010, when the Red Bulls were handed a brutal four game road trip smack dab in the middle of the season, in 2012 they never play more than two in a row on the road, and they'll get the most brutal mileage out of the way in March. Six league road games will be played within 200 miles or so of Red Bull Arena.
  • Down the Stretch: New York's final nine matches will be against Eastern Conference opponents, including three against Sporting Kansas City.
How do you feel about the new schedule? Happy to see more rivalry games? Unhappy about moving away from a balanced schedule? Are there any games in particular that you are looking forward to (or dreading)? Post your thoughts in the comments below.
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