Thursday's matchup between the Chicago Fire and the L.A. Galaxy in California should have been a flagship game for Major League Soccer, writes Luis Arroyave. Bruce Arena makes his debut as Galaxy coach, pitching the western conference divas in desperate need of a win against the eastern high-fliers, with the league's most prominent designated players in David Beckham and Cuauhtémoc Blanco thrown into the mix.
But once again the international calendar has collided with league play, depriving L.A. of Beckham and Landon Donovan, and the Fire of Blanco (Mexico), Marco Pappa (Guatemala) and Gonzalo Segares (Costa Rica). It also deprives the league of a game it could have really hyped up to its Thursday night national TV audience on ESPN2, and the local fans in L.A.
"The [MLS] calendar is tough," said Blanco. "I wish they would reschedule the game, but it's too late." MLS Deputy Commissioner Ivan Gazidis said, "This year, scheduling was a real challenge," citing the usual factors of stadium availability, TV obligations and numerous other tournaments taking place during the MLS season.
"Very quickly, we were running out of mid-week dates," Gazidis continued. "It's not our first choice to have our teams play without their best players, but it's the world we currently live in." The call-ups of Blanco and Beckham, both of whom seemed to be beyond their international sell-by dates, were unexpected. "It's a great story," Gazidis added, "but it was not predictable."
Still, that doesn't place the league beyond criticism, argues Arroyave. "Of all the games on the MLS schedule, the Fire-Galaxy match in the Los Angeles area is the one that should have been scheduled with the most care. The league needs more games with star power and story lines, and Thursday's match-up would have provided both."