Legends pick busy day to try to draw crowd

They played their first game in the new and improved MASL, which stands for Major Arena Soccer League, which is supposed to be a step up the pro soccer ladder for the Las Vegas Legends, an indoor team embarking on its third season.

This was on Sunday. On an NFL Sunday, and a World Series Sunday, and a live pro bull riding at the Thomas &Center Sunday that paid $1 million to the winner.

The opponent was the Turlock Express, a team the Legends played when both were PASL — Professional Arena Soccer League — teams. The MASL formed in spring when six teams dropped out of the MISL — Major Indoor Soccer League — and joined a bunch of PASL teams to form a new league, with new capital letters.

Many of the MASL teams are in large U.S. cities. One is not. The Turlock Express sounds small time, as I’m sure the Green Bay Packers did once.

One of the biggest differences between the two franchises is that the Packers averaged 77,947 paying spectators in 2013, while the Express averaged 521. Also, the Express does not have an Aaron Rodgers-type player with whom one can easily identify. Turlock does have two midfielders from Argentina according to the program; er, roster sheet; er, roster I finally found on Wikipedia that looked fairly accurate.

So while it would be easy to cast aspersions at the Turlock Express, and at the modest stature of the MASL, that is not the intention. At least it was pro soccer, or a reasonable facsimile, thanks to those Argentinian imports. It gave local soccer fans something to do after the Manchester United game (or replay) on TV went off, at least if they didn’t have kids playing youth soccer at the Mayor’s Cup, which also held its finals Sunday.

By my count, only 249 turned out for the Legends game against Turlock.

It’s possible I could have missed one or two of the little kids, but I also counted a guy in a yellow shirt as a paying customer when he might have been an usher.

Not all crowds in the MASL are this minuscule; on Saturday night, the MASL kicked off in Allen, Texas, with the Missouri Comets defeating the Dallas Sidekicks 13-4 in front of an announced crowd of 4,008. True, the picture on the website showed only a smattering of soccer fans seated behind the net, but perhaps those are the expensive seats in Dallas.

The expensive seats for a Legends game cost $20; the cheap seats cost $9. That’s not a bad deal when one considers it’ll set you back $10.50 to see that new Keanu Reeves movie at the Century Orleans 18. There are a lot fewer Legends home games (nine) than there are Keanu Reeves movies. When you look at it that way, the Legends are a bargain.

As for the soccer, well, it looked like most indoor soccer games: Guys with soccer skills kicked the ball against the Plexiglas; the ball ricocheted around the hockey dasher boards; guys scored goals, mostly with their feet, once with their head in the case of Ivan Campos, No. 24 on the Legends.

The crowd was mostly made up of kids; many brought vuvuzelas. When the kids weren’t exercising their lungs on those plastic horns, music was played over loudspeakers, mostly dance music, although early in the first period “Zorba the Greek” was played.

(The last time I heard “Zorba the Greek” played at a sporting event might have been 1972, when the Cubs’ Milt Pappas took a perfect game into the ninth inning against the Padres.)

The Turlock team pulled its goalkeeper, as they sometimes do in hockey, and scored the tying goal with 4.3 seconds to go. Neither team scored in the 10-minute overtime. The Legends scored one goal in three shootout tries; the Turlock team went 0-for-3.

So the Legends won, 7-6. Kids blew on vuvuzelas, and kids slopped nacho cheese on their shirts, and kids dragged parents by the arm to the concourse to get autographs from the Legends players afterward.

It was easy getting in and out of the parking lot, but then there were only 249 people at the game and a guy in a yellow shirt who might have been an usher.

It was live entertainment at an affordable price. That’s probably all there is to say about indoor soccer’s viability over the long haul both here and elsewhere.

Eventually, when the team runs out of money, or the league runs out of money, or when the Orleans determines that Golden Retrievers catching Frisbees between their teeth while flying into a swimming pool produces more casino traffic than indoor soccer, then indoor soccer probably will be gone, too. Like the Wranglers.

And then we’ll say what we always seem to say when it comes to minor league pro sports around here, that it was sort of fun while it lasted.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski

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