I had built up the match in Columbus to have a special meaning for me. My first in-person Red Bulls match was against Columbus so somewhere in my mind I thought attending game one of the Eastern Conference Final was some sort of metaphorical circle completing itself. Desperate to finally write a fanpost, I tried writing about the two matches, but everything I wrote was unfocused crap. Just like the way we played Sunday night.
Nine seconds. Columbus scored nine seconds into the game. Are you [bleeping] kidding me?!, I thought at the time. The chanting supporters stopped before they could even begin and I had to force myself to not break my hand punching the aluminum benches of Mapfre Stadium. The capos, though. They refused to die in that moment. They got us started again and we kept going for the rest of the match.
I’m not going to describe the match. If you’re reading this, then you were either there or watching on television. You probably felt the same despair and anger while watching our midfield lose ball after ball. And, like me, you might have shed a few tears at the end of the match.
Last Sunday doesn’t matter anymore. All that matters now is this Sunday and how we – as a team, as supporters – need to believe.
Here’s a fun fact about me: when I get prolonged bouts of anxiety I crunch numbers. Usually, it’s personal budget stuff, but last night it was statistics. I wanted to see if a hypothesis I’ve had the last couple of years about the team was panning out. Maybe I could find hope for Sunday if it had merit.
Somewhere in the middle of last season I noticed that the team didn’t do so well in games that began before 7:00 pm. We were scheduled for a lot of 2:00, 3:00, and 5:00 pm matches and, in the middle of the summer, it was affecting our standings. Conversely, we did well in matches that began at 7:00 pm or later. And the trend continued even when the summer turned to fall. So, in my blue monday haze, I began to wonder if the same was true for this season.
As we all know, the RBNY record for the 2015 regular season is 18 wins, 10 losses, and 6 draws. Of those 18 wins, 14 began at 7:00 or 7:30 pm Eastern Standard Time, while three began at 5:00 pm EST, and one began at 3:00 pm EST. The scores for those 14 wins ranged from 1-0 up to 4-1 with the median score being 2-1.
Of RBNY’s 10 regular season losses, seven began at either 7:00 or 7:30 pm EST, two began at 5:00 pm EST, and one began at 9:00 pm EST. The scores for the seven 7:00/7:30 matches ranged from 2-1 up to 5-2 with the median score being – yep – 2-1.
So there was evidence that the team plays better in a certain time frame, but there was no correlation to score. There had to be more answers in the numbers. There just had to be! So I averaged all of the scores from the 7:00/7:30 matches. For the matches where we lost, we gave up an average 2.57 goals and only scored 1.29. But for the matches we won, we scored 2.36 goals and allowed 0.64 goals.
And there was the glimmer: we score two at home, keep Columbus to zero, and play for our lives in extra time.
Now compiling and calculating numbers may have calmed my nerves, but I’m sure that none of what I deduced means anything. Afterall, I know jack all about sports statistics. What I do know is this: we cannot give up hope. We just can’t assume that the Red Bulls will lose on Sunday. We owe it to ourselves as supporters and to the team.
Will it be difficult to win the series? Absolutely. But I remember another time when it looked like the good guys were going to be beaten, but they came back to win. How did they do it? They heard a damn good pep talk from their "manager". That’s why I think we need the same kind of pep talk:
I have, myself, full confidence that if everyone on the team do their job, if nothing is neglected, and if the best plays are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our RBA home, to ride out the Crew’s attack, and outlive the menace of Kei Kamara. That is what we are going to try to do! That is the resolve of Jesse Marsch’s team, that is the will of the RBNY front office, and the desire of the legions of RBNY supporters. Even though other teams have fallen to the Crew, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in the midfield, we shall fight in the backfield, we shall fight in the box. We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our home and our season, whatever cards may be given. We shall sing in the South Ward, we shall stomp in the upper deck, we shall cheer in the stands. We shall never surrender!!!