Thursday, September 22, 2011

Salt In The Wound

by Dick Mac

My team stinks.

My beautiful, state-of-the-art, best of breed, truly amazing home stadium is (like my team) poorly managed.

My team plays in this amazing stadium that is also difficult to get to.

This season has been a nightmare-come-true. My star-studded team has a record of 7-7-15. That's seven victories, seven losses and fifteen draws!

Fifteen draws.

Draws against good teams and draws against bad teams.

My team has increased my season-ticket price by almost fifty percent, from four-hundred-something to seven-hundred-something.

The price hike during a truly awful season is cutting. It says: "We own your loyalty and now we are going to cash-in on your desire to see your team play."

I am not happy about it; however, I paid-in-full the week the bill arrived.

Last night was the first home match since paying for next year.

It was embarrassing.

At the beginning of this season, we had a team loaded with talent and deep on the bench. That's one thing a championship team needs to have: depth.

In the middle of the season, we traded two of the team's important, but unheralded players: Tony Tchani and Danleigh Borman (along with a future draft pick). Tchani is a rising star with excellent skills, and Borman was an anchor on the wing, whether playing midfield or defending. Were they the core of our future? No, but they provided depth and versatility. In that trade we got Dwayne DeRosario, an exciting Canadian player with midfield skills that raise the play of any team. We traded depth for immediate results, and DeRosario's presence was known; he played very well.

Then management decided to trade him to rival D.C. United for Dax McCarty.

Dax McCarty.

Things have deteriorated in the midfield.

Our defense is aged and only Tim Ream and Rafa Marquez possess the skills needed for the team to go to the next level. The currently-injured Roy Miller has been a reliable replacement for Borman, but Jan Gunnar Solli has not become the stalwart his early performances hinted at. Our defenders on the bench are not sufficient to help win games. Carlos Mendes is a hard-working, hard-nosed defender with strong skills. I think he might be the longest-serving member of the team now. He's lost a step, though. Speed isn't his forte, so he is not much help on the wings. When he plays there, however, he works his tail off! Chris Albright, the semi-retiree hired when New England found no use for his deteriorating skills, is high on the depth-chart. I am as baffled as everyone in New England must be about this. Stephen Keel can come off the bench, and defends admirably; but has never been given a chance to find a spot in the line-up.

Our defense is a wreck.

At last night's embarrassing loss to Real Salt Lake, our defensive woes were exposed. Rafa Marquez earned the vocal derision of the fans by providing an opening to the opponent that lead to a goal. Tim Ream made the same mistake for another goal-against, but did not suffer the wrath of the supporters.

Marquez is not the same player he was for Barcelona, and his performances as captain of the Mexican National team have also suffered. I do not believe, however, that he is responsible for the problems on defense; and to focus all the derision on him is a mistake. He is actually one of only two defenders that actually help the team.

Goalkeeping? We are playing an aged and decrepit Frank Rost who is paid a huge sum of money and takes one of our Designated Player spots. As goalkeeper, he was involved in giving up all three goals. Would a younger GK do a better job? Probably. But, for the money we pay him, we can get a better (if not younger) GK.

So, I sent off my thousands of dollars a couple weeks ago for next year, and last night I was treated to standard fare: a tedious commute to a half-empty remote stadium, a concession stand that had no hot dogs ready for sale seven minutes before scheduled kick-off, a skeleton of a team being run ragged by the opponent, and the new addition, the sound of my fellow fans booing not the team's performance, but the play of an individual player. Yup: fans were booing whenever Rafa Marquez touched the ball.

A fan doesn't boo his own player during a match. Boo the teams performance, yes; isolate one player for public derision, no.

Watching my team deteriorate in clear sight while hearing my fellow fans boo Rafa Marquez, was salt in the would of paying for next year's tickets.

How could things have gone this wrong so quickly?

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