Ali Curtis was hired a year ago tomorrow.
He replaced arguably one of the most successful sporting directors Andy Roxburgh, and his first action was to fire head coach Mike Petke. He weathered through angry fans hurling expletives at him at a town hall meeting, and then began tinkering with the roster. By the end of the year, he was receiving standing ovations.
Here are the key additions and departures Curtis executed before the season began:
Out with the old, in with the new. The new, came together to have one of the best seasons in franchise history, winning a Supporters Shield, for the second time in three years. In addition the new brought in mid-season acquisitions Gonzalo Veron and Shaun Wright-Phillips, a luxury most MLS teams could not dream of.
Curtis brought his knowledge of MLS from working in the league office, and helped use it to his advantage. He fleeced other teams in trades, but also it must be noted continued to get in bed with some interesting dealings abroad to keep a supply of cheap talent coming to the team. Curtis is clearly one of the smartest sporting directors in MLS, and wants to keep being an innovative force to work within the league's salary cap structure.
I'm gong to editorialize to end this report card. I think Ali Curtis did a great job this year, and the original town hall left a taste in my mouth that made me ashamed to be a sports fan. Sports, no matter how much we try to pain otherwise, are a business and the only team a "club" or more appropriately a franchise owes you is the idea that they are trying to put the best product on the market for consumers to enjoy year in and year out. Since in all sports there are a fixed number of resources, and in many leagues there is no forced competitive balance sustained seasons of sub par performance may actually lead to greater gains in the long run. That's why we as consumers are willing to support bad teams.
Today's modern digital age allows for greater connectivity online than ever before. It is much easier to be an anonymous person behind a computer with unfiltered actions to send hateful messages to people. Those actions bled into reality with the first town hall, a privilege nearly no team in North America would afford to their fans. Many clubs make horrible decisions over and over and over again (I could write 10,000 words on the awful transactions I've watched the Mets make in my short lifetime), but executives hired to make decisions that we never would do not have a clause in their contract saying they have to constantly listen to Steven from Staten Island call into Mike Francesca so that the team gets to know his opinion.
Sure, we can credit the club for opening up the floor again when everything was breaking correctly (a shrewd PR move if you ask me), but at the end of the day the ugly behavior showed why sports teams don't try to interact with fans: we don't deserve it. Fans pay for a service, to watch games in person or in some form thanks to the connection of television and the internet. We do not pay to be able to hurl our unfiltered thoughts at coaches, players, and management. At the end of the day we are just consumers, hoping to enjoy a product. We are nothing more, despite the pain that product gives us.