Dear Mike and the gang,
First, an apology: last time I wrote, I went over your heads to Papa Red Bull. And I have to say, initially I thought it was a masterstroke. Mike rolled out a pretty decent lineup against New York Cosmos. Sure, there were one or two newish faces (hi Ambroise; good to see you again, Ryan!), but there was experience and ability all over the field for the US Open Cup match you'd pretty much been telling us Father Austria wanted you to tank.
I was really looking forward to the news, some time after the game, that Papa had been on the phone to say well done and let's go on the march to secure another trophy. Hell, maybe we could chase two this season - there's no quota (you know this, right?).
And then...yeah, that did not go well.
Look, I'm a fan and I that means I set myself up with the delusion we might win any and EVERY game. That's why I watch any and every game you play: at the Arena, on TV, on whatever godforsaken corner of the internet you occasionally force me to visit. But I know we lose games. I know we could lose any game we play, just like I hope we win them all.
There's no shame in losing. Unless you lose the way you lost to the Cosmos.
You were dreadful, guys.
You were thoroughly outplayed and completely over matched. That's not, in itself, particularly upsetting: we've all seen that before. The upsetting part was you didn't seem to care.
There was an infuriating line being peddled after the game: "This was the World Cup to them, and my guys didn't view that way," is what you said, Mike. "You know this was going to be like a World Cup game for them," was Lloyd Sam's take.
There is a problem with this it-was-more-important-to-them-and-that's-why-we-lost stance. First, it should have been important to you. You are a professional soccer team. The point of your existence is to win matches against other professional soccer teams. It is what you do.
Everyone has a bad day at the office from time to time, but if you get called out and your response is "I didn't think today's work was important enough for me to do much about it" - well, it's unlikely you'll be having many more days, good or bad, at that particular office.
Failing to realize US Open Cup is nobody's idea of the World Cup, but is your fans' idea of a meaningful trophy you could win and bring joy to their hearts: this is discouraging.
Several hundred people followed you to Long Island, and you owed them...something more than a shrug and a bizarre soundbite.
I'm not going to dwell on this. We've got some problems ahead for the second half of the season. As I'm sure you've noticed, we have 18 points from 15 games. We're going to need at least 50 points by the end of the season. Sure, we might sneak into the playoffs with less: Montreal got in last year with 49. By the way, Montreal was terrible by the time the playoffs rolled around.
If we get to 50 points, we won't be terrible, because to get there, we'll have averaged 1.68 points per game through the remaining 19 games on our schedule. That's not terrible at all. We won the Supporters' Shield last year by averaging 1.74 ppg. The team at the top of the Eastern Conference at the moment is averaging 1.67 ppg.
Oh, about the team at the top of the East: D.C. United. That was a historically terrible team last year. And now it's not. What happened? Well, among other things, it salvaged a bit of pride and got the CONCACAF Champions League berth that brings the allocation cash boost to allow for rapid rebuilding, by winning US Open Cup.
I said I wouldn't dwell on it. Sorry.
Mike, you told us the loss to the Cosmos "has no bearing on our MLS season." I hope you're wrong. The first 15 games of 2014 made us look like a so-so team, occasionally capable of winning a game, but mostly not. We need to turn that around.
I'm hoping, privately, you told the team you never want to see a game like the one against the Cosmos again. Because it was a game to revive the flashbacks of our season-opening drubbing by Vancouver, or the thwacking we got from Chicago.
You guys decided to put all this season's eggs in the basket marked MLS. Fine. In Petke (and the rest of you guys) we trust: go win us that basket.