At one point last year—the evening of September 10, 2011, to be exact—I sat down at my MacBook and began typing one of the angriest strings of words that I can remember writing regarding this sport that I love. That angry string of words soon became an incensed succession of sentences, then an apoplectic procession of paragraphs, and, finally, inevitably, a purely pissed-off outpouring of pages. Late into the night I let a metaphorical landslide of frustration loose and spilled it out through the keys of my computer until it glowed back at me like a burning coal in those dark hours. When I stopped writing around 3AM and looked back at what I had written (a soccer screed of almost 5000 words, including camera phone stills, video highlights and scanned diagrams scrawled onto Chipolte napkins, links to past and present online sources and blogs of varied reliability, on and on et cetera et cetera ad nauseam), I saw that all that was left to do was to share my little digitally-knitted supporter's scarf of hate with those who would understand—or, at least, with those who might read it. And so, with 3 hours of furious footy polemic all but in the can and ready to be blogged, I did what any person would do who had just stayed up late into the night raging and writing an angry letter full of heartbreak after having their hopes dashed...
...I deleted it.
I deleted it because, once it was written and once I'd read it, I realized that I was just shouting into the void. The results were in. The bed had been made. The water was over the dam. You will reluctantly recall that on that date the then first place Columbus Crew lost for the first time ever to then last place Toronto FC, 4-2, in a match that the previously hapless Canadian side more or less dominated from the outset. The result was horrible, but the play by the Crew in front of the home supporters in a deciding 2nd leg match of the Trillium Cup derby was even worse. It was spiritless, gutless, heartless, and, in more than a few instances, utterly shameful.
The team stunk. Bad. And they stunk for the second consecutive week. Bad. And worse, they really didn't look like they gave a damn. Sure, there were comments after the match by the team's stand up leader William Hesmer who spoke the truth about what happened, and his read on the attitude the team took going into the match against one of our 3 major rivals; but there was this noticeable aura of "oh, well" in the body language on the field and on the bench (Hesmer excluded) that rrrrreally pissed me—and many other Columbus supporters—right the hell off. This, coming soon on the heels of taking a 6-2 trouncing against Seattle the week before, was almost too much to take. And considering the fact that these two repulsive results (in which Sigi Schmid's and Aron Winter's respective staffs completely outclassed and seemed to bewilder Columbus') sandwiched the still inexplicable timing of the announced decision to extend the Crew's current coaching regime for three years, the week from September 3 through September 10, 2011, was truly one of the most maddening in my 16 years following this team. But that's all in the past. Things are different, now.
We're minutes away from our third match of the season and I, honestly, still can't get a read on this team. The performance against Colorado was awful. The performance against Montreal was better. The fact that Montreal is terrible at this early point in their inaugural MLS season needs to be taken into consideration, of course. But there are promising signs. Mirosevic and Vargas appear to be terrific additions. Andy Gruenebaum has filled in more than capably for the injured Hesmer. The midfield aside from Mirosevic is still a question mark. There's tried and true Eddie Gaven; Kirk Urso seems to be a free kick specialist, but has been erratic at best in the run of play; and Dilly Duka went down early against Colorado and hasn't been seen since. Bernardo Anor has been inconsistent and Ethan Finlay has looked good (for a rookie) in Dilly's stead. Danny O'Rourke and Shaun Francis have each had their great and less-than-good moments along side of the solid Chad Marshall and Sebastian Miranda in the starting back four. For the most part, 3 games into the season, the Columbus Crew are still an unknown quantity.
However, and it pains me to have to put it this way, Columbus may be getting our first fixture with Toronto at an opportune time. I say that it pains me to put it that way because there was a time before 2011 when it would have been obvious to the point of absurdity to point out that our once championship-pedigreed side didn't need to catch a break getting Toronto at an "opportune time." Every match against those losers was opportune. Now, Toronto is better, I think. They were significantly improved in the latter matches of 2011, and they've been very impressive in CONCACAF Champions League matches against Los Angeles and Santos Laguna. Then they've lapsed into the ghost of TFC suckmas past against Seattle and San Jose. But now we get them in between midweek matches against Santos, and with injuries to their designated player Torsten Frings and starting 'keeper Stefan Frei.
So, I'm unsure how this match will go. It truly defies reasonable prediction. What I am sure of is that 3 points for Columbus in this match will go a long way toward helping me to forget what happened last September. C'mon, Columbus. Let's hit that delete key.