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Let’s talk about the awful turnaround for LAFC

Win or lose, it was always going to be rough.

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Portland Timbers at LAFC Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

If I’m being honest, I expected Bob Bradley to do a “Nobody is talking about this!” message to reporters after Wednesday’s 1-0 loss for Los Angeles Football Club in the U.S. Open Cup. It is the easiest talking point possible, to complain about the schedule this week for LAFC.

Because the schedule, in a word, sucks. On Wednesday, LAFC played an Open Cup quarterfinal, and on Friday, they have to travel to Texas to play the Houston Dynamo in a league match. Yes, you read that right, Wednesday then Friday.

Senior-level international tournaments don’t make teams play twice in three days. I can’t recall a time when an MLS team had to play two games in three days in the last decade. Five years ago, the USL would do this kind of crazy scheduling to accommodate teams on road trips on shoestring budgets. Then they quit this practice, because it is unsafe for players.

The kickoff of Friday’s game is less than 48 hours after the kickoff of Wednesday’s game. Even if LAFC didn’t have to travel, that would be ridiculous. Throw in a travel day, and give me a break!

There are several reasons for how we ended up here:

  • Why wasn’t the Open Cup game on Tuesday? Because LAFC’s opponent, the Portland Timbers, played their last league match on Sunday against New York City FC, in the Bronx. They would have had to play two games in three days if the game was on Tuesday, and I guess they got their way because LAFC hosted?
  • The coordination is likely complicated by the games taking place in separate competitions. U.S. Soccer runs the Open Cup and make the scheduling decisions there, while MLS does the same for league games. If it had been two league games, I imagine MLS would have worked to find a better compromise here instead of sticking LAFC. But with it being separate competitions and separate bodies running them, it likely fell through the cracks.
  • Can’t Friday’s game be moved? If it was a local broadcast game, there’s a decent chance LAFC could have convinced the league it needed to happen. But Friday’s game is part of a well-publicized national TV doubleheader on UniMás, and considering the promotion of the game, moving it would have really screwed up the broadcast partner’s plans.

So what, you say. Why should a national broadcaster take precedence over the safety of the players? That is a legitimate question, frankly, but it’s also why I think LAFC didn’t beat the “This is so unfair!” drum over the truly bonkers scheduling. I have to admit, I’m surprised there wasn’t a bit of grumbling here. Maybe it’s a bit of “no excuses” psychology within the team, looking to find a way to cope any way they can.

The only person who opined on the schedule after Wednesday’s game was LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye, who gave the equivalent of a shrug and “no excuses” (which he literally said) in responding to a question.

“This time of the year is tough,” he said. “There is a lot of games in the MLS and you have international duty and Open Cup. To manage minutes is very important. It’s also up to the players to make sure they keep themselves in good shape. It goes the same with the other team. They’re going to experience fatigue the same way we are. You can’t really use that as an excuse.”

So there you have it. Everyone expects LAFC to rotate considerably against Houston, probably not even travel a bunch of key players, and we’ve seen so far this season when big changes are made in the lineup, the team has lost. Even if this was a normal game where LAFC was on short rest, but not extreme short rest, the task against the Dynamo would be tricky. But the choice between fulfilling broadcast obligations and protecting a team, which happens to be the best team in MLS, probably needs to take the team’s needs into account better. After all, UniMás may get LAFC as part of a Friday night doubleheader, but it would be pretty unfortunate if a team of reserves makes it a poor game to watch or worse, a player suffers an injury because he played less than 48 hours before, halfway across the country.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!