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Lauletta: Communication, execution of CBS issues no longer acceptable

Utah Royals FC defender Kate Del Fava (8) celebrates a goal with teammates.
Photo Copyright Darren Yamashita for USA TODAY Sports

It was a glorious National Women’s Soccer League weekend. Until it wasn’t. With six of the seven matches scheduled for national television, it was an exciting three days for the league that is clearly riding a crest of popularity. But on Sunday, when folks tuned in to watch the Seattle Reign host the Portland Thorns on CBS they were greeted by Lilia Vu sticking her tee in the ground to begin a playoff in the LPGA event. And that’s where the trouble began.

As the three players in the playoff hit their tee shots and CBS went to commercial there was no acknowledgment from the booth or via graphic about the impending NWSL match. After the break, a crawl popped up indicating that the soccer match was coming up next and that kickoff would be at 4:11 p.m. ET (the broadcast began at 4:00). It quickly disappeared meaning that you had to stick it out through the commercial and had to have been paying attention at the right moment to have seen it. And anyone who has ever watched golf knows that it was next to impossible the tournament would be over by 4:11 p.m.

The graphic ran once more and then the golf announcers alerted viewers that they could catch the NWSL match on the CBS Sports website and app. The problem with that was that it was actually available on neither, at least for non-paying customers.

Meanwhile, the league Twitter/X account made one mention of the kickoff time being tweaked to 4:11 (matches typically kick seven minutes after the listed start time). It did not send anything about the move online until 4:31, about the same time another verbal mention was made on the golf telecast.  At 4:38 the NWSL account made mention of technical difficulties online.

By the time the golf tournament was over so was the first half in Seattle. We saw some of the halftime show and the second half was business as usual. It was so much business as usual that barely a mention was made of the issues accessing the first half and little effort was made to catch up viewers who were unable to see it. So the first half of the league’s top-selling historical matchup was basically unavailable outside the venue.

In an emailed statement, an NWSL spokesperson said, “We work closely with our partners to alert all fans during these situations around live programming. Both parties communicated updates as soon as information was available.”

To be clear, this is not about a golf tournament running long. The LPGA and its fans deserve to see their event play out to its conclusion just like any other league. NWSL fans should be more understanding of this than they probably are. The issue is realizing the perils of scheduling live events on top of each other and developing a fool-proof plan to account for the inevitable overlaps. Additionally, communication could have been exponentially better. For one, a three-woman LPGA playoff doesn’t exactly sneak up on you so there could have been messaging about contingency plans from the league and the clubs involved. They could have sent information to their media distribution lists which also would have helped spread the word.

It almost happened again ahead of the night game. A Canadian Football League broadcast ran a few minutes over and kickoff for Bay FC/Royals was pushed to 7:12 p.m. local time. This one was a bit more complicated in terms of the broadcast on CBS Sports Network because they were taking the feed from TSN in Canada. But again communication could have been better. And if the game-winning field goal had missed and that game went to overtime? I shudder to think…

In short, the NWSL and its media partners need to do better when it comes to communicating hiccups with overlapping live events. They need to make sure that all programming is readily and easily available to the average viewer even when unforeseen circumstances get in the way of things starting as scheduled on whatever the channel is.

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Around the league

Current 2, Red Stars 2

The Current moved within a game of the NWSL record for consecutive games without a loss but it was the Red Stars who came away with better feelings after snagging a 90th-minute equalizer to steal a point on their first visit to CPKC Stadium. The Current controlled much of the match but could not find a first-half goal and trailed at the break for the first time this season after Mallory Swanson’s tough-angle shot slipped under Adrianna Franch’s arm.  They turned it around early in the second on goals from Bia Zaneratto and Temwa Chawinga. But their bugaboo on set pieces reared its ugly head late when Swanson put a corner kick on Staab’s head and she delivered her first goal as a Red Star.

Gotham 2, Louisville 0

In a match best described as a tactical beat down, Gotham completely neutralized Louisville on the road and cruised to their fourth straight win behind goals from Yazmeen Ryan and Ella Stevens. The match was played on a steamy afternoon in Louisville and as a result, was a bit slow at times. Ryan’s goal game when the Racing defense overloaded to one side, including goalkeeper Katie Lund, and left a heap of space for Ryan to strike what should have been a harmless shot into the net. Gotham keeper Ann-Katrin Berger set the club record for most decisions without a loss with eight, the only games she has played with the club. She has a 0.50 goals against and Saturday was her fourth clean sheet.

Spirit 1, Wave 1

Just when it seemed like the Wave were on the verge of their most complete performance of the season, Croix Bethune electrified the largest home crowd in Spirit history with a stoppage-time equalizer. The Wave went ahead 20 minutes in when a strong buildup that switched the point of attack left the Spirit defense vulnerable. Maria Sanchez wound up with the ball on the left side and got off a fantastic cross that Jaedyn Shaw got on the end of at the expense of midfielder Hal Hershfelt who had tracked back to mark.

The Wave could not add to the lead though, and they paid for it in the final moments of stoppage time. The play started with Casey Krueger stepping into a long ball from her own half of the field. Abby Dahlkemper got a head on it for the Wave but the angle of the ball sent it toward the goal rather than away. And then the magic started. Bethune took it down with her chest while at the same time slipping behind Naomi Girma and then quickly beat Kailen Sheridan to the near post when everyone in the building thought she could go far post or hit a cross.

Courage 0, Pride 0

The Courage remained unbeaten at home while the Pride remained unbeaten this season in an entertaining scoreless draw at WakeMed. The Courage are 0-7-0 on the road but had been a perfect 5-0-0 at home this season. Meanwhile, the Pride were held off the scoresheet for the first time since Sept. 3, snapping a club-record streak of 16 straight games with a goal. They did set a new league mark by playing their 11th in a row without trailing. Seb Hines’ side last had a deficit on March 22 against Angel City. They equalized that night while playing with 10 and are 8-0-3 since.

Dash 0, Angel City 0

This one ended in controversy when Messiah Bright’s chance deep in stoppage time was ruled to have been saved by Jane Campbell. Replays showed that the ball nestled under Campbell’s legs as she fell backward, but no angle definitively showed the entire ball crossing the entire goal line. Campbell made an initial save off her knee and it ricocheted back off Bright and between Campbell’s legs.

“I don’t know if I’m allowed to speak anymore so I’m going to say no comment because I think I’ll get myself in trouble,” Angel City coach Becki Tweed said. “I have my feelings and my thoughts. I’m sure you could see them on the sideline. I’m just going to keep them to myself.”

VAR did take a peak at the play but referee Eric Tattersall did not go to the monitor. It should be noted that Angel City were eventually whistled for a foul which could have been called before the ball potentially crossed the goal line. There was also a discussion about a handball on Bright but that was not the call on the field and replays were inconclusive.

Angel City could have been ahead in the 55th minute but Claire Emslie took a weak penalty that Campbell easily saved. It was no more than the third most difficult of Campbell’s five saves on the evening.

Reign 0, Thorns 0

The Thorns were without Sophia Smith, Samantha Coffey, and Olivia Moultrie and it showed as they struggled to control the midfield. The Reign played reasonably well but rarely looked threatening. In the end, not much happened on the day which was reflected in the final score. Accounting for all competitions, it was the 40th all-time matchup between the Cascadia rivals and they are even, 15-15-10. They will play once more this season in the Summer Cup group stage, on July 31 in Portland.

Bay 0, Royals 1

Ally Sentnor won a free kick and then delivered it to the head of Kate Del Fava for the 89th-minute winner as the Royals snapped a gaudy, 10-match winless streak against their expansion sisters. Just a few minutes earlier, Del Fava made a stunning slide tackle on Deyna Castellanos that thwarted what would have been Bay’s best chance of the night. Play was briefly stopped for the possibility Del Fava committed a foul which would have been a penalty kick but resumed without an official VAR check.

“I think I’m the one that stepped up to let the through ball go through, so I thought I have to get back and get this tackle in.” Del Fava told ION’s Jordan Angeli postgame.

California, here you come ☀️

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  • Then catch Angel City vs. the reigning NWSL champs, Gotham FC, on July 6 in style before the Olympic break. In addition to two premium tickets that include warm up field passes, the winners will also walk away with jerseys.

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Free kicks

  • Eventually, we’ll lose this note, but Laura Harvey is still on 99 all-time coaching wins following Sunday’s 0-0 draw against the Thorns. Harvey and the Reign are now 0-4-2 since she picked up No. 99 against the Wave on May 3. Included in those matches are two each against the rival Thorns and her coaching rival Vlatko Andonovski. Next up is a Sunday visit from Racing Louisville.
  • Streaks alive for Samantha Staab (103 straight starts) and Kaleigh Kurtz (6,712 consecutive minutes). Both are NWSL records. Kurtz did pick up her third yellow card of the season which means she is two away from an automatic suspension.
  • Staab’s goal to give the Red Stars a draw kept them from losing for a fourth time, something the team has never done in its NWSL existence. They have lost three straight on seven different occasions. The Red Stars were founded as a WPS team in 2009 and played two seasons in that league. During those years they lost three straight five different times but never a fourth.
  • Gotham can tie their franchise record unbeaten streak at nine against the Wave on Wednesday night at Red Bull Arena.
  • If you showed me the goal line play from Angel City and asked my opinion, I would probably say goal. But if you told me the call was no-goal and asked me if I would overturn it, I would probably say no. So I’m good with how it went down. I would like to see goal-line technology though. Not only is it helpful but unlike VAR it is almost completely unobtrusive to the flow of the match.
  • I’m no doctor but in the era of taking head injuries so seriously, I don’t see how Kelli Hubly was allowed to continue on Sunday.
  • Before the Royals scored, they had been held off the board for 368 straight minutes. In 1,170 minutes of play this season they have scored seven times.
  • Zoe Burns had a particularly good match for the Royals on Sunday.
  • The Croix Bethune goal was discussed above, but it is one of my favorite all-time NWSL goals. Not many players who have ever passed through the league make that finish, especially after the take-down off her chest. Truly a fabulous individual effort.
  • Following the two Wednesday matches, all 14 teams will be exactly halfway through the longest NWSL regular season to date.
  • Finally, one week after Penelope Hocking completed the Wrigley Field, father/daughter double, I thought this was a pretty cool tweet.

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