By: Logan Alexander
Alas, finally, the North American Soccer League has given fans Opening Day fixtures and an hour later, the league revealed the whole slate of matches for the upcoming 2017 season. It seemed as if the league were awaiting the peak moment of anxiousness among supporters, but finally we have a guide throughout 2017. Here are my thoughts, and this is not like any other writing piece that has been posted. This is strictly opinionated, so let’s start talking.
At about 10 o’clock we heard word that the NASL opening day fixtures were to be released at 11am, which wasn’t really a shock as we knew today was the day the schedule dropped. As the time arrived, the first match revealed on Opening Day was New York Cosmos @ Puerto Rico FC, which was not a big deal. Well, this is the beginning of the downward spiral on the day. I was understanding, like many others, that the first matches of the year are special so it is alright to release each match every few minutes, maybe five minutes between each reveal maximum. Ten minutes passed by and still no word on the second fixture, and once again I was understanding as I figured they may release them every fifteen minutes because math. Every fifteen minutes, one match would be released equating to this process only taking an hour, which again was not a problem.
Fifteen minutes were up. The next theory made sense too. The NASL are releasing one match every TWENTY minutes because also, math. Once the league revealed the third match, everyone would be able to guess what Game #4 was, so it really doesn’t matter on when they reveal the last game. Twenty minutes went by. Nothing from the league. And yet finally after I am fuming, already finished with my turkey sandwich and ready to get the news so I can leave and go back to work knowing who Jacksonville were facing on March 25th, the second game was released. Miami FC @ North Carolina FC. Awesome stuff there. I bet you can guess what happened after the second reveal…
Another thirty minutes. Although, this was a thirty minutes of extreme anticipation. The potential opponents for the Armada were San Francisco, Indianapolis, or Edmonton. This could mean one of two things. One, being we play Indy or Edmonton and it is just another ordinary opener, away at their park because University of North Florida facilities are being used on March 25th for a Track and Field event. I was praying it would not be Edmonton because that is the most boring fixture ever, you can agree or disagree, I could care less, it is true. Though, @ Indy would be awesome, there was a mouth-watering reason as to why facing off with San Francisco Deltas week one was ideal.
First of all, traveling to San Francisco bodes an opportunity to completely ruin the start to their season. New boys on the block,in their first year, craving for a win in their home opener, that is the perfect start to a season. Having the opportunity to spoil the party, and travel to witness the crashing happen, that would be monumental. Along with supporting your local team, the United States Men’s National Team are due to play a World Cup Qualifier against Honduras, just a short drive onward to San Jose, the night before. So, you can see what opportunities could result if Jacksonville drew to play at San Francisco.
News hit. Indy Eleven @ San Francisco. What an absolute bummer, to miss out on a game for club and country, and then realizing your opener is at… Edmonton?! Well, that sucks. Honestly, I wasn’t even mad at this point. The chances weren’t in our favor that we would travel to the Bay Area and in the end that didn’t work out to be the plan. I was content until they released the final match…. #MarchIsComing they said…
Mysteriously enough, March was not coming for Jacksonville Armada and FC Edmonton, as they in fact are now in a forced situation to wait and begin play on the 2nd of April where they will meet at Hodges Stadium in Jacksonville, FL. This actually makes zero sense at all. Sure, NASL does not want to allow Jacksonville to hold their home opener anywhere other than UNF, and it may be frigid in Edmonton, but there is not a problem playing in Canada. If their excuse is the weather and temperature, there is hardly a difference between a March and October in Alberta. That is not a viable reason to delay two teams from beginning their season along with anyone else.
On a completely separate note, this is the second season in a row the Armada has received a bye week during the first week of the season. Is there not some of rotation when it comes to this?? *crying laughing emoji*
On a second note, eight teams is too little to begin with, but opening a professional season up with only three games and having two teams on a bye week is ridiculous. This league already looks like a joke to the rest of America, and the world, but to leave two teams, one fourth of the clubs in the league, out of Opening Day is DUMB. There is no sense to be made behind it.
To add to this, Jacksonville travels to Edmonton six days later to take on the Eddies, fifteen days from when the two could have matched up for an opener along with everyone else. I won’t get deep into ranting, but it should not be that difficult to schedule properly around eight teams.
At approximately 2pm EST, the full schedule was released for every club in the league and there was one thing to look out for: Weekday and Sunday matches.
The Spring season does not matter too much, as there are three Sunday matches. This is not a big deal other than competing with MLS, as Sunday’s are the primetime day with the biggest games of the week for Major League Soccer, but those games should not hold back fans from attending Armada matches. In the Spring (16 matches), we play an extra match against Edmonton at home, and against Indy Eleven on the road as the schedules are not balanced properly.
The second half of the season is where it starts to get interesting. Eight games on a Sunday highlight the Fall season and wow, that is not alright. Five of the eight Sunday games are at home and four out of the five occur during the National Football League season. Being a struggling market like Jacksonville, as tough as it is creating an atmosphere to attract fans, it is that much harder to lure fans to a match during the middle of a professional football game. Being the city of Jacksonville, people are crazy about the Jaguars. Almost one hundred percent of the time, a person will want to attend Everbank Field for a football game, or they will watch on the television, disregarding a local soccer team playing. Fall time in the South is football, and you may be able to compete with MLS in the Spring, but NASL will always be the loser if they schedule games consistently on late Sunday afternoons during the time the nation’s biggest sport is airing.
Luckily, there are only two Wednesday matches in the Fall as those were a drag to attend last year, especially with the club not performing on all levels. NASL succeeded in this area of the schedule, recognizing that Jacksonville and other clubs in the league, struggled receiving a decent attendance during weeknight matches. For the first year in our existence, we end the season away from home as we close with San Francisco Deltas.
This was not a jab at Jacksonville Armada, but a message to NASL from a supporters’ perspective, a very annoyed supporter. But through it all, I give everything to the club and will be there week in and week out supporting them. Come on you boys in blue<3
Also, this was not my writing style at all. I hope you all enjoyed a little rant. Regular articles resume tomorrow!
Join the conversation on twitter! You can follow me @ItsLogie and let me know what you think about the schedule and other news regarding Jacksonville Armada Football Club!