In his latest column for the Chelsea website, our resident American blogger Stephen Rea explains how he's enjoying having the Blues fit around his schedule...
This season feels decadent to me. I’ve watched every one of Chelsea’s midweek matches.
We take the crammed English football calendar for granted, but it’s jam-packed. There have only been two or three weeks (baring international “breaks”) that the Blues have not played twice in seven days and there would be even fewer if we had drawn our FA Cup ties.
On this side of the Atlantic, American football teams play 16 times in a regular campaign and that includes a bye week. The idea of preparing for 16 games in 17 weeks must seem like Utopia to managers back home.
Baseball, basketball and ice-hockey clubs take part in more contests and, of course, they are all professional elite sportsmen. But standing at first base waiting to catch the ball requires a lower level of fitness than that needed by N’Golo Kante, while the other sports often rely on short bursts of speed rather than the stamina footballers must build up to last 90 minutes.
We are still fighting on four fronts more than six months into the 2018/19 year. Performing in arguably the most competitive league in the world interspersed with knockout competitions every few days gives the players little chance to recuperate, and restricts the time the coaches have to implement their philosophy.
Midweek matches are a challenge for Chelsea fans in the States. For us, they start anywhere from 10am on the west coast for the Europa League, to 3pm in the Eastern time zone for an 8pm kick-off.
For the last few years I worked at my daughter’s school and most midweek games were out of reach, and like many Blues supporters here I relied on surreptitious glances at my phone to keep up with the score.
This year however I’ve had a more flexible schedule and coordinated it around when Chelsea play. For the first time in the 15 years since I moved here, I’ve been free to follow all the action in all four tournaments, whether it’s been a crunch Premier League showdown or a European dead rubber in the group stage.
So, despite our recent setbacks in the league, I’m loving our present run in the quartet of competitions, and I’m crossing my fingers that the Blues continue to brighten my midweek mornings and afternoons for a little longer yet.