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The Pep Talk

Alright, Union. Saturday you’re playing LA. Yes, that LA, the best team in MLS right now. Yes, the ones who get their goals from league-leading scoremeister Edson Buddle, and their swagger from gracefully aging bendmeister Dave Beckham AND Premier League-worthy Landon Donovan. They’re kinda good.

But that is no reason to approach them humbly. Since day one, against Seattle (compared to whom everyone is just so sure we’ll never measure up as an expansion city), you boys have made it clear that reputations, statistics, and odds are to be ignored, given no more pause than the pricks of conscience you may feel before flattening an opponent- yes, we still like disciplined physical play- or any modicum of hesitancy that may exist in your minds when you play the ball forward. It’s not your style to fear. It’s not your style to have a defensive mindset- you just don’t assume that posture, and we hope you never will.

We have complained, of course — oh, we’ve complained. We’ve pointed out the lack of discipline, we’ve screamed over the split-second screw ups and the FML moments. We’ve thrown our hands up over missed offensive opportunities and bungled defensive efforts. You’ve heard the gripes and done your share of Argentine box drills over it. But, as we live and breathe, we swear that one thing has overridden all that; one thing has shone through like dawn through the fog of every Sunday’s hangover- you fellas have HEART.

You have looked defeat square in the eye and charged. You have seen yourselves down, more than once now, without even considering out. We saw it in Seattle. We saw it in Toronto. We didn’t forget the last 10 minutes against New York last Saturday. You didn’t win in any of those cases, but the attitude was something to note- THAT was heart. That was hussle. You have it, and if you use it for 90 minutes straight, the results might just shock us and the Galaxy. The beauty of this situation is that right now you have nothing to lose- no one will fault you if this game doesn’t improve our record. But by Jove, you can use this one to make a STATEMENT. You boys move the ball like a team much more established than yourselves- your midfield is a thing of beauty, your forwards link up like they’ve been doing it for years, your backline can close up faster than my prom date’s…long story. The point is, I think you can do a lot more on Saturday than a lot of people think you can. You guys have the ingredients- cook ‘em up the right way and show the rest of MLS what we in Philly already know: that you’re not just another expansion team.

As was mostly expected, the doctors have officially declared super-striker Sebastien Le Toux unfit for tomorrow (while, fortunately for us, Becks is unfit for the season). Of course this will require adjustment. Alejandro Moreno will have to do some heavy lifting in the absence of his forward counterpart, especially given the relative youth of the other available strikers. But call it, if you dare, a crisi-tunity. This could be the time to shine for, say, an Mwanga or a McInerney. If Danny Boy or Little Mac can unleash a little of the reckless confidence of youth while digging deep for some grown-up style precision, Union fans might want to buy them their first post-game beer a few years ahead of the law.

We can also look to what any objective observer would describe as a very good midfield. LA has a defense that would make certain B.C.-era Chinese emperors fire their wall-building staff in favor of Donovan Ricketts and those who protect him. Fred, Torres, and the rest will have a long 90 minutes trying to keep the pressure on LA strong enough to set our forwards free; all this while they join with our back line in the struggle to keep the surnamed Donovan from linking up with Buddle for what will surely bring sweat to the brow of Chris Seitz. But the situation is far from hopeless.

I’ve used this phrase before to describe this team’s attitude- illogical optimism. Turn that dial up to 11, and take the field knowing that we the fans are behind you, in the stands and in the pubs, filled with the optimism you’ve managed to inspire in us despite the losses.

LA is Goliath — now show ‘em what kind of stones you have.

(Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz)

Conor also writes for Philly Union Talk.

One Comment

  1. I am no longer certain where you are getting your info, however good topic.

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