A View from Afar / Commentary

No, kids, you can’t go to the Union-Galaxy match. It’s a school night.

Photo: Earl Gardner

Philadelphia Union have never hosted the Los Angeles Galaxy for a weekend match, and that trend continues this week when the league’s most famous club visits Talen Energy Stadium on Wednesday.

With the Union unlikely to host the Galaxy next season — they now play just one match per season against Western Conference teams — they could go through their first eight years without ever hosting Major League Soccer’s biggest draw at a time when most schoolchildren can attend.

Union head coach Jim Curtin tried to be diplomatic when asked about the subject in his press conference on Monday.   “Would you like to play the Galaxy in July in Philadelphia when kids are off school and families can kind of plan around it?” Curtin said. “Sure, that would be better. We don’t get a lot of say in the exact dates, when West Coast teams come in.”

Since the Union began play in 2010, the sides have faced each other eight times, three of which have been in Chester, all on weekdays. The Union sold out the 2010 and 2011 contests but failed to sell out the most recent one, in May 2013.

Devising major sports league schedules can be complicated, and it’s probably more so in MLS, where the number of teams and the conference alignment has changed so often over the last decade. Once the league settles down to a fixed number of clubs and conference alignment, league schedulers will likely improve.

Still, it’s a shame Philadelphia fans have never gotten to go to a weekend home game featuring the Galaxy. Like them or not, the Galaxy are a huge draw, the one team in MLS that registers most significantly outside its home region. Sure, David Beckham and Landon Donovan may be gone, but the club remains among the league’s elite, featuring big names like Steven Gerrard, Giovanni dos Santos and Robbie Keane.

It would be nice if families could feel comfortable bringing their school-age children out for the match without having to worry about problems the next day when those kids attend school.

Granted, this is not to say that midweek games are childless affairs in the stands. Some parents do bring children to these games.

It just isn’t as easy.

To get to games, you have to be sure you are back from work early enough to eat dinner with the family (unless you are prepared to empty your wallet at the concession stands) and get to the stadium on time for the 7 p.m. start. If you work a standard 9-5 schedule and get home 45 minutes later while fighting through rush hour traffic, you probably have about 20 minutes at home before you have to drive to Talen Energy Stadium and get to your seats, which probably takes an average of about 40 minutes for most fans.

After the game, it’s a similar time crunch.

For example, let’s say you live in Mount Airy or Germantown, the northwest Philadelphia neighborhoods where I used to live.

The game ends at 9 p.m. If you leave the stadium immediately — no pit stops at the team store for gear, no waiting for your kid to get an autograph — then maybe you get to your car in time to beat the outbound traffic and depart Chester by 9:30 p.m. You then have a 40-minute drive home. Once your nine-year-old or your teenager gets inside the house, changes clothes, and brushes teeth, you’re looking at a 10:30 bedtime.

For many parents, that’s a precursor to war the next morning, as tired girls and boys stumble out of bed, demand five more minutes for sleep, and maybe miss the bus to school.

Midweek games are part of life in MLS, so this is just one of those things that fans and teams have to deal with, and the lower attendance figures for most midweek games reflect that clearly.

It would be nice, however, if Philadelphia fans could host the Galaxy just once on a weekend, so any kid can get the full game day experience against the league’s most famous team.

Miscellaneous notes
  • The Union are 1-1-6 against the Galaxy in the regular season. They have lost their last three match-ups by a combined score of 13-3, with only a David Akers field goal to show for it.
  • The Galaxy sit in second place, two points behind Colorado with a game in hand. Yes, Colorado. The seemingly worst coach in MLS suddenly looks like he has a clue now that Jermaine Jones has arrived and played out of his mind.
  • The big names may be the ones fans know about the Galaxy, but the players to really watch are Emmanuel Boateng, Sebastian Lletget, and Gyasi Zardes.
  • The Union’s assistant coaching staff has shined this season. You have to pay close attention to see it: B.J. Callahan working on Union set pieces, which have improved significantly this year; the staff selling Jim Curtin on the Ray Gaddis halftime substitution two weeks ago; and certainly other examples.

24 Comments

  1. John Ling says:

    Yep. I’ve ranted about weeknight games plenty of times – mostly about the near-impossibility for me to get there by 7pm. My solution to that problem, of course, only exacerbates the one Dan mentions — getting up for school / work the next morning.
    .
    If I searched correctly, the 2010 home game against the Galaxy was on an October Thursday night. The others, like this one, have been on a May Wednesday night. My hunch is the league gives the Union the Galaxy on weeknights because they see it as a chance to boost attendance for a match that would be less-attended with another team coming in on a weeknight. (I don’t think that’s necessarily true – put New Jersey or DC on a weeknight, and it’ll sell out.)
    .
    So let’s compromise, MLS. Can we have this game in July or August? Late June, when school is either out or so close to being out that it doesn’t really matter? And can we also have a 7:30 start for weeknight matches in those months? Pretty please?

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      Early June is final exams in most schools. Finals are meaningful components of term grades, usually.
      .
      Is not the real issue here the repetitive pattern of the schedule maker? Once is our fair turn in a rotation. Always is rank deliberate willful discrimination by Don Garber and his minions.

      • John Ling says:

        Yep, early June is finals. Which is why I suggested late June as a possibility.
        .
        And like I suggested, the repetitive pattern is on purpose, as a means to boost attendance during a weeknight game that would otherwise have a lower-than-average attendance.

  2. el Pachyderm says:

    Wait…. let me see, give it a minute~~~ nope doesn’t move the needle at all. Too many more important issues, though I respect Mr Ling’s sentiment.

    • Zizouisgod says:

      Perhaps not for you, but this is an issue that can easily be remedied and has a simple solution (unlike many of the issues that you raise).

      Not trying to antagonize, just stating fact.

      • Dan Walsh says:

        +1.

        This isn’t a topic to go to war over, but it’s worth the schedule-makers paying attention to in the coming seasons.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        Complexities reflect realities in ways that sound bytes do not.

      • Yeah, if I rethought it inside of 4 minutes I would walk the, ‘more important’ idea back a bit… mostly I was still steaming a bit over Mr. Curtin’s Euro-snob comments in his press conference.
        .
        .
        That said…I am totally convinced MLS exists purposely in an obtuse parallel universe… where games-in-hand after 2 months and mid-week games against West Coast teams have me totally befuddled and baffled … to the point of acquiescing that it is purposely poking itself with a stick to see if it is actually alive.
        .
        I want MLS to succeed I want MLS to rollover and die….if I had ham I’d make a sandwich if I had bread.
        .
        A great paradox for me personally… wish I could get behind it totally but just can’t.

  3. Bare Fight says:

    There should also be no MLS games when USOC games are taking place. Like tomorrow night. Early round games might get a little bit of extra attention from some fans of the game thus increasing the profile of the tournament. And those small clubs that would really appreciate a few more eyes on their games.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Not sure I agree with this. After all, the Premier League doesn’t take off for the early rounds of the FA cup.

  4. Zizouisgod says:

    Dan – Thanks for writing this. I had this exact same thought when the schedule got announced this year. I remember a co-worker of mine had bought tickets to the 2011 match as his daughter was a huge Beckham fan and it wasn’t disclosed until the morning of the match that Beckham wasn’t making the trip which was pretty terrible. Last year, we got Seattle’s B side for a midweek match. It’s great that the Union got a win, but as a MLS fan, you would like to see the best players play when their team comes to town.

    BTW – it’s ridiculous that MLS teams have to travel cross-country to play a mid-week match. I know that teams that play in the Europa League have similar circumstances, but that’s a cup competition, not a league with a set schedule planned a year out.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      The pattern has been sufficiently clear in the past that having been burned twice by the Galaxy, philly fans no longer believe they will bring their stars. Why else would someone think it necessary to post video of the Galaxy boarding the plane with shots of Steven Gerrard and Robbie Keane featured prominently?

      • Zizouisgod says:

        Very true. Galaxy are off this coming weekend so perhaps we see a full strength side.

  5. Andy Muenz says:

    I can’t believe anyone would be surprised at this. After all, it’s the same schedule maker running a league where Chicago has played 4 fewer games than New England. Maybe they were anticipating that Chicago would be making a deep run in the CONCACAF Champions League like Montreal did last year?
    .
    For Cross Country trips, you could get most of it done by scheduling 3 game road trips that go Saturday, Wednesday, Sunday. Have everyone in the East play an Western swing that way and then flip it the other way during the summer. Then put in a two game road trip each way and you’ve got your interconference play done with no one gaining a significant advantage based on travel schedule.
    .
    If only the schedule maker didn’t get his meds in the parking lot of a Dead show…

  6. We play LA on a weekday because there are bigger teams on the east coast (NYCFC, NYRB, Montreal, Toronto, Orlando) with bigger stars that MLS wants them to play on a weekend.

  7. Totally agree that Wednesday night games during the school year are not conducive to bringing kids. I have similar problem with Friday night games, sitting on I95 with the shore traffic trying to get to the park by 7.

    7:30 starts would be better on weeknights.

  8. There goes my Fans’ View post! Dan, you and I think alike too much.

  9. Broseidon says:

    I would honestly just let my kids skip school the next day xD its just one day. But if they do manage to get up and go to school tired who cares they’re young. they’ll recover, they’re not as fragile as we make them seem.
    .
    Uh-oh does that make me a bad parent?

  10. Drhammerheel says:

    84 miles. 10 and 12 y.o. kids. On the way. Bad parent? Judge not.

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