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Fans’ View: Freedom’s just another word

Photo: Earl Gardner

This month’s writing session finds me rain-soaked and huffing from what has become an almost nightly midnight hike through my neighborhood. (Side note to the universe —going forward, should you insist on matching the drama of my moment, I’d sincerely ask that you do so via Score rather than Effects. Thanks)… Now back to the actual subject: Our Union and how they are fairing.

The walk in the rain clarified nothing of my personal matters, but did put me on to the fact that it is, perhaps, not surprising that a young team such as the Union have finally gotten some better results as their hopes for the playoffs flickered, dwindled, then died (the last two games excepted, of course).

There is a certain, palpable, relief once the worst has actually come to pass. There can be bitterness… A lingering regret… But, also freedom to perform without the need to push for greatness or the flailing to avoid the coming failure.

The team has failed (supposing a playoff berth equals success). They can now play for the joy of playing. Play for the joy of each other. And, one hopes, play for the joy of tearing down a few other folks who remain in reach.

There is some joy in seeing that as a fan. It ends the season showing a glimmer of what could be next spring. It makes it feel as if there is something to build on.

Jack can score some goals. Gaddis is an everyday player. Okugo could co-anchor the back line with Valdes for years (or shift up a step and take over Brian Carroll’s role). Marfan is a boss.

That upbeat ending comes with a big ol’ flashing warning light though. You see, unless a team can play when it does mean something—before all is lost—it doesn’t much matter. To me, the fact that the youth can show talent, but the results aren’t there when it counts, indicates a lack of leadership. That means the veterans aren’t getting the job done. It could mean Hackworth can’t get the job done.

Post-Novak, the team caught a euphoric updraft that carried them mightily for a month or so before reality crashed in to remind them that mediocre talent ends with mediocre results.  The ease with which they took to the Hackworth regime was refreshing, but destined to be short-lived. Think about it. Dad leaves town and puts big bro in charge. For a while everyone has a performance surge where they both take out the trash per Dad’s ingrained wishes AND party it up per Big Bro’s. Inevitably, the party takes over a bit. The kids still have fun. There are flashes of greatness, but then the chores start to slack. Hackworth, for now, comes across too much as buddy-coach.

This is not a pro-Novak statement. My only regret in his dismissal was losing the opportunity to boo his name.

It is merely a worry, that Hackworth’s style (which was so critical to healing a young team) will end up being an overcompensation going forward. This is exacerbated by the lack of veterans.

Both are solvable so great hope remains.


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