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Half a Soccer Bowl is better than no Soccer Bowl, right?

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Canadian fans outside of Ontario and Manitoba only had the chance to see just a little more than half of the game. But the NASL’s first Soccer Bowl of the split-season era went as the handicappers thought it would.

And what was the plot? That the New York Cosmos, playing well and coming right off their fall-season triumph, would beat the Atlanta Silverbacks, a team that hadn’t played a meaningful game since July 4.

This was the script: If Atlanta won, the Silverbacks would carry the trophy in front of a packed house at home, and show that, yes, you can win the spring season, finish seventh in the fall season, and still manage to get revved up to win the one big game.

If the Cosmos won, it would be… well, a win for the Cosmos, the NASL’s most recognizable brand.

The Cosmos triumphed and, for NASL, it was the best possible match-winner of a goal. It was a helluva fantastic volley from the foot of Marcos Senna, the league’s most recognizable star.

So, with the Cosmos win, it’s proof for the opponents of the new split-season format, isn’t it? That, despite being at home, Atlanta didn’t have a chance?

No. The winning team might have been the one most of us though it would be, but Atlanta really was competitive enough to quell any complaints that the Silverbacks weren’t mentally ready for this game.

Marcos Senna, right, provided the Soccer Bowl’s highlight. PHOTO: ANDREW SNOOK/NASL

In fact, Danny Barrera had a great chance to equalize for the Silverbacks soon after Senna’s goal, but, wide open in the area, he badly shanked his volley attempt. Cosmos keeper Kyle Reynish had to make several decent saves in the match, many of them before viewers north of the border could actually, ahem, watch the match.

For Canadians expecting to see the game on the official league stream, there was frustration.

The Soccer Bowl was offline until about 40 minutes into the first half. The game was supposed to be available to Canadian viewers — and geoblocked in the rest of the world — on UStream, the league’s webcasting partner. But, for NASL, it was yet another case of a stream that was unavailable or of poor quality.

Through most of the first half, we heard from frustrated viewers (or, potential viewers) throughout Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec. We heard through Twitter that Reynish made a great save to keep the game scoreless. We also saw Tweets that Cosmos forward Stefan Dimitrov had a great shot on goal. Thus, a significant portion of the NASL fan base had to follow the game through social media, much the same way a fan in North America would try and follow a Polish third division match.

And, at halftime, just after the feed finally came to life, the UStream viewer counter had the audience at just 22. That’s a sign that many frustrated people had just given up or were able to find the feed in Spanish on ESPN Deportes.

Viewers in Manitoba and Ontario could watch the game live on EuroSport World, but that channel isn’t available outside those two provinces.

It’s hard to criticize a league that make webcasts available to fans for free; after all, it’s morally difficult to gripe about a service for which you don’t pay a cent. But, if the league wants to spread its brand, it needs to work out these kinks. Getting a deal in place for its Canadian broadcast just a day before the big game didn’t leave much time to work out the kinks. And, as Canadians watched a UStream channel that kept telling us the Silverbacks’ feed was off-air, it was clear with each passing minute that there were a lot of kinks in the system.

There were 7,211 in attendance at usual-5,000-capacity Silverbacks park, and temporary stands were used to handle the overflow crowd. But the event didn’t translate on our screens north of the border, because only the dogged soccer followers were going to wait out 40 minutes worth of dead air.

Earlier this year, an FC Edmonton-Fort Lauderdale broadcast was pulled off UStream after the Canadian broadcast hosts discovered that the selective geoblocking wasn’t set up. When Edmonton plays at home, Canadians are blocked from feeds in order to protect Sportsnet’s broadcast rights. Because the game was pulled, Florida fans couldn’t see the game, and NASL wrote an apology release to the disgruntled supporters, promising the league would do better.

Now that the stream is an issue once again, we will see if Canadian supporters get the same kind of apology from NASL. We’ll soon find out if some supporters are more equal than others.

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