(Taylor Twellman voice): “What are we doing?
As I was walking away from West End Stadium Saturday, after the FC lost yet another game against an Eastern Conference rival and nailed another plank on the giant Wooden Spoon of this season, I found myself without any strong thoughts on the game. Vaguely, yes, it was disheartening that the FC barely threatened Red Bulls’ goal the entire game, it was frustrating that the winning goal was scored by Andrew Gutman – another symbol of Gerard Nijkamp’s many failures – and I was disappointed that there wouldn’t be victory shots at Northern Row that night.
After past losses, I would replay the game in my mind, figuring out what might have went differently that would have changed the outcome, or trying to find the good moments that would give me hope that everything could eventually turn around. But on Saturday, in all honesty, I couldn’t have cared less. We are out of the playoffs. We don’t have a coach. Many of the players won’t even be here next year, and the rest of them look like they don’t want to be.
There are seven games the rest of the year. Five of those are at home. Why should anyone watch or attend these games? Why should the most devoted fans of the team, much less casual fans, care what happens the rest of the season?
Well, here are some thoughts.
An Albright Future
The FC recently announced its new General Manager, Chris Albright. And with a press conference! If anything goes remotely right, Albright will mark the turn of FC’s fortunes in MLS. Albright brings with him what this franchise has stubbornly chosen to go without through its first-tier existence – MLS experience. He also, reportedly, will bring over a technical director from Philadelphia Union and maybe even a coach. If his experience as the budget and contract guy for Union is any indication, we should soon see fewer and fewer of those bad contracts that have prevented FC from climbing out of the basement.
The worst probable outcome is that FC will find itself settling somewhere at mediocrity, a perfectly fine outcome for a team that plays a game only slightly resembling soccer in a league where approximately half of the teams make the playoffs.
Once announced, and as he builds out his staff, Albright will presumably let the fans get to know him and his vision for the team. (Seriously, if the team announces Albright and then goes dark for five months people are going to lose their minds.) As we learn more about Albright and what he’s looking for, we can discuss which current players fit best in his vision and what players the team should be looking for in the offseason.
Every fanbase of a losing team has exactly one thing to point to at the end of the season, and Albright will bring that with him: Hope for the future.
You Never Know
OK, so the team’s out of the playoff picture, but that doesn’t mean they can’t win on any given night. When Brenner slots one away, or Lucho dices through a defense and past a goalie, or Kubo hits one from the edge of the box, you’re not thinking in the moment that this won’t make a difference in the standings. You and the 20,000 (paid attendance) people around you are going to go nuts, and then you’re going to celebrate out at The Pitch or Northern Row or Holiday Spirits or wherever and everything, in that moment, is going to be fine.
Sports, more than most other things, gives us these experiences that are so hard to come by. A shared joy, away from whatever ails us at work, school, in the news, or in our families.
(And to go negative for a moment, this is what the last three years of mismanagement have robbed us from.)
The potential for that feeling is worth showing up for, even if it’s not likely to come. Sure, it might be fleeting, but so is life.
It’s a Nice Day with the Family
I don’t know if you know this, but the stadium is basically a block from Washington Park and only minutes from plenty of great restaurants. It’s very pleasant to walk around OTR on a gameday, seeing all of the people wearing orange and blue. There’s a feeling of community, and a sense of belonging.
It’s a Nice Way to Escape from the Family
Alternatively, maybe you just want to leave the spouse and kids at home and get drunk with your friends. That’s cool too!
The Real FC is the Friends We Made Along the Way
Whether you’re a member of an SG, an independent supporter, a YAL Star, or sponsored by SueroX, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve made relationships out of your fandom. Maintaining those connections – especially in a society where loneliness and isolation are prevalent – will be so rewarding. Not just when the team is good, but also always.
Jeff Berding Needs You
[NOTE: More was intended for this article, but the author started it on a Sunday and then neglected it for a few days. Don’t be like the author. Stay committed.]