Commentary / Union

Talking points

There are terrible, horrible people in this world who, with a goal of saving themselves from disappointment, fear, or loss, will read the final chapter of a book before any other page. These sociopathic monsters deprive themselves of all that is good in the world, specifically a well-crafted narrative, one molded tirelessly and endlessly, in their search for unrelenting selfishness.

Author’s note: The author’s wife enjoys many types of books, both fiction and nonfiction. She regularly reads the final chapter before starting and is otherwise a kind and occasionally jovial non-sociopath.

The Union bludgeoned a weakened Seattle Sounders side into submission on Saturday night, with Stefan Frei and his unflappable positioning the only margin between a statement victory and two points dropped. For some observers, the Sounders bunker was a sign of respect. For others, the Union’s inability to tear down that proverbial wall was a sign of work left to be done… or worse, a fatal flaw.

Without knowing the end of the story, it’s impossible to judge which belief is true.

Sometimes points dropped are devastatingly crucial in a march toward silverware. Sometimes they’re just off nights, unlucky bounces, and blips on the radar in an otherwise excelsior journey. Sports offers an infinite list of such forks in the road. Here are several, plucked from recent memory or local lore that might resonate after such a divisive outcome.

Liverpool FC- 2019

In a neck and neck competition that would make even the guy who runs the water gun horse race at the carnival impressed, Liverpool led the league at Christmas and were nearly perfect down the stretch. Earning more points than all but one previous Premier League champion, the last match the Reds didn’t win was against Merseyside rivals Everton. It was a match in which Everton’s “impressive industry [was] not matched by [Liverpool’s] craft in the final third.”

Sound familiar?

Meanwhile, on a short week Manchester City were industriously nicking points from midtable sides West Ham and Bournemouth.

Liverpool’s was just a draw in a rough and tumble darby, City’s a fairly predictable win. That day, though, the Reds dipped below the Citizens a once and final time. Neither team budged an inch thereafter, City won the league, and those points dropped were ultimately a title lost.

Penn State Football- 1994

On a cold day in November, having just vanquished 5th ranked Michigan on the road and 21st ranked Ohio State by 7 touchdowns (yes, you read that right), The 2nd ranked Nittany Lions faced a classic trap game in the rolling hills of Bloomington, Indiana. The Hoosiers fought their darnedest to pull the upset but were consistently outclassed by the league leaders, with only a last-second, Hail Mary touchdown keeping the score even reasonably close.

Because few people in the country could watch the game on television, including the voters of most of the major polls, that perception of a close game in spire of the facts cost the Lions dearly: they slipped out of first place because of this perception, while corn-husking title-chasers Nebraska slipped in after a walloping the University of Kansas 45-17.

A brief lapse and a bad bounce were all it took to change minds and the Nittany Lions never recovered, finishing 2nd in the AP Poll despite a perfect season.

Philadelphia Eagles – 2017

An early season trip to Kansas City was the kind of barometer all Eagles fans were keen to read.

No one yet knew how good Carson Wentz would be or that Jay Ajayi would be available from Miami. No one had a sense that Alshon Jeffery would be the stud all Philadelphians hoped he might or that Brandon Graham would make good on his many year promise to elevate the team.

What fans did know was that their side had promise, but a loss in Kansas City was a bit of a chink in that armor. Against a Chiefs team that had just taken down the mighty Patriots in Week 1, they couldn’t run the ball (LeGarrette Blount didn’t even have a carry!) and their veterans made crucial mistakes (catch the #&@% ball, Torrey Smith!).

The story certainly wasn’t over, but it seemed like a few changes were in order after a disappointing chapter.

Fans of the American football Eagles may remember that the team rebounded from this loss to win the Super Bowl at the end of the season.

A blip, really.

Philadelphia 76ers – 2001

If the internet had existed in its current form at the turn of the last century, Allen Iverson stepping over Tyron Lue might have broken it.

In Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Iverson and company went to The City of Angels and stole the series lead from Kobe, Shaq, and the outworked Lakers. The Answer’s 48 points were a series high and the team had tilted the court in their direction. It might have been the kind of catalyst champions point to on their way to trophies.

Unfortunately, the black-shirted-Boys of Hip Hop (the bunny) never won another game that series, held under 100 points every contest thereafter. In reality, the series wasn’t close.

The Lakers were the better team, more complete from top to bottom, and more seasoned as a group (having just won the whole thing the year before). A game lost in a series of seven wasn’t the end of the world for the champs, it was merely a bump in their otherwise predestined road.

Philadelphia Union – 2019

The Union drew a match at home on Saturday against one of the better teams in the league. The visitors rested many of their regulars and replaced them with a stone-walling team of defenders ready to absorb anything. The strategy worked and though the home side had better numbers in every category, in the one that mattered they were level at 0.

Whether this match represents real points lost in a journey that ends in heartache or a forgettable result from an otherwise magnificent season is unknowable in May. Fans will simply have to keep turning the pages.



  1. el Pachyderm says:

    elephantal….TALKING POINTS:
    I got a kid home sick.
    can’t even read todays info…let alone listen to Haris.
    gotta clean the bathrooms.
    U20 World Cup Mexico Italy now — then Poland Colombia… how the hell am I to get it all in.
    daughter isn’t that sick.
    bathroom can be half assed.
    and there’s the coffee and donut I bought on the counter waiting for the footy. Yup. I sit.
    otherwise.. I drag this as my talking point over from yesterday and will continue to do so every day until THREE other persons second.
    listening to the mid week presser is one of my favorite parts of being a Union Supporter. I seldom ever miss one. All this to say, this year’s have become so much more enojyable. I feel bouyed and not listless as so often was the case as the skipper and media had to, “bring out your dead in that room.”
    Jim… it doesn’t matter a hill to you, but after almost 4 years, many many opinions of doubt and doubt being lifted only to fall upon doubt again, I doff my cap and have become a full supporter of your tenure. Keep it up.

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    Sounds like your wife needs a Kindle where it takes more effort to just skip to the end.
    The first two examples are not really germane to the Union as they are based on regular seasons that do not lead to playoffs so it can be possible to not be able to recover from a single blip. The two points dropped by the Union Saturday may make the difference between specific spots in the playoffs and could make things more difficult by having to play more road games but they won’t cost them in and of themselves. (Yes, it is possible that they could be the difference between 7th and 8th where they do and don’t make the playoffs, but if that is the case, my guess is that there are other games we look to as the primary cause.)

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