Red Bull & RSL: The Deep-Bench Exhibitions

I intend no offense to either Red Bull New York or Real Salt Lake, but...well, it’s hard not to notice a - how do you say? - downward trend in the quality of MLS sides setting out to face two of Europe’s giants. Not to characterize this too harshly, but, given the combined records of these two teams - 11 wins, 16 losses, 14 draws (check my math here if you must) - a return to praying for anything this side of a blowout doesn’t seem out of order.

Whatever happens on the field, at least we’ll be able to see it. Fox Soccer Channel (FSC) will carry both the game between Red Bull New York and FC Barcelona (4:30 p.m. PST) and the later game between Real Salt Lake and Real Madrid (6:30 p.m. PST).

(NOTE: This weekend ought to be soccer bliss for MLS fans. If you’re wife/significant other is either out of town, working, completely pissed off at you, or just a slack-jawed junkie, between FSC and ESPN2 there’s six-and-a-half hours of straight soccer on the TV this Saturday. So, build a couch-fort, haul in a case of beer, and enjoy!)

There’s a surprising paucity of coverage of both. Early morning Google searches yielded only MLS’s in-house previews - not that there’s anything wrong with them. For their part, RSL’s stadium issues gobbled up a hell of a lot of their copy, but with that appearing headed for a happy ending, people might not mind so much. Even so, MLS’s preview gives some idea of just how giddy RSL’s players are at the prospect facing their illustrious namesakes.

Jeff Cunningham, for his part, may be a little too giddy. Here’s what he had to say:

"They are a good team, obviously, but I'm sure there are some issues, fitness as well as cohesion. We've been playing together for six or seven months now. At this point, we are a very good team, so it should be a very good game tomorrow."

Ah, Jeff, you said such smart things, such sane things - right up until you got to “we are a very good team”...

Not to be too critical, but the Red Bull/Barcelona preview doesn’t even offer risible commentary. It’s all about (again) excitement and who gets Ronaldinho’s jersey. And there’s some rather extended copy on the NBA’s Steve Nash showing up to practice with the squad (OK, I actually thought it was pretty cool; he seems a very humble man).

(Whoops. Turns out the late edition of MLS’s Newstand has many, many more previews, though I should mention that this link will self-destruct by Monday at the latest. Still, props to the MSM for pimping the game, even if it’s late for my purposes).

Obviously, I’m not high on RSL’s or Red Bull’s chances. As correct as Cunningham may be about “cohesion and fitness” these are damn good players and, frankly, there’s little risk of Red Bull or RSL being confused with the cream of the league. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be watching the games and freaking out if and (hopefully) when they do good things.

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